Why the Pro-Democracy Landslide in Hong Kong’s Elections Blindsided Beijing

Why the Pro-Democracy Landslide in Hong Kong’s Elections Blindsided Beijing
Pro-democracy supporters celebrate after pro-Beijing politician Junius Ho lost his election in Hong Kong, Nov. 25, 2019 (AP photo by Kin Cheung).

Editor’s Note: Every Wednesday, WPR Newsletter and Engagement Editor Benjamin Wilhelm curates the week’s top news and expert analysis on China.

Voters in Hong Kong came out in droves Sunday to hand pro-democracy candidates a resounding victory in local elections and deal the pro-Beijing camp a staggering defeat. Amid escalating protests and unrest, hopes were higher this year for Hong Kong’s pro-democracy movement in the district council elections—a vote that the pro-Beijing establishment has dominated in recent years. But this landslide victory still caught Beijing off guard.

With more than 70 percent voter turnout, 3 million Hong Kongers cast ballots in what is the semiautonomous territory’s most truly democratic election, with almost all seats directly elected. Pro-democracy candidates won 389 of 452 of those that are elected, up from just 124 in 2015, making it the largest victory they have ever achieved. The protests that have raged in the streets of Hong Kong for the past six months clearly provided a boost to candidates who were sympathetic to the pro-democracy movement. As The New York Times put it after the vote, the “government’s allies held just 58 seats, a remarkable collapse from 300.”

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