Hong Kong Voters Have Taken a Risk. Trump Should, Too.
Published in The Washington Post
on November 25, 2019
Hong Kong’s democracy movement won a smashing victory in yesterday’s local elections, winning nearly 80 percent of the seats and 17 of 18 district councils. This poses a serious challenge for the Communist Party rulers in Beijing — and for President Trump.
Yesterday’s win does not mean democracy proponents now control the city government. Hong Kong is governed by a three-step system that is progressively less democratic the more important the post. Hong Kong’s pro-Beijing chief executive, Carrie Lam, is elected by a 1,200-member committee that is elected by only a tiny fraction of Hong Kong residents. Her term runs until June 2022, and the democrats cannot remove her from office in the meantime.
It does, however, show that the people of Hong Kong want both more democracy and to keep the freedoms they have. Democracy advocates won more than 57 percent of the vote, besting the pro-Beijing opposition by more than 15 points. This landslide came on top of a record high turnout: 71 percent of eligible voters cast ballots, up from about 47 percent in the previous election. Hong Kong’s “silent majority” voted to keep their city firmly rooted in the Western political and legal tradition.
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Henry Olsen is a senior fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center.