Imagine for a moment that you have to decide whether the District Elections should go ahead. The protests give you the perfect excuse to postpone them, but that would certainly make things worse, so you need to think carefully.
You’re not actually in Hong Kong, of course, but you have the benefit of advice from both the Hong Kong Liaison Office and the puppet government (including its first-rate Chief Executive Carrie Lam Yuet-ngor).
They tell you that the “silent majority” hate the protests and so they won’t vote for those troublemakers in the pan-democrats, and not to worry because the (pro-Beijing) DAB is really well organized and very active in local communities, so they will be fine.
Based on this excellent advice, you decide that it would be a really bad look to cancel these elections (nasty, messy, unpredictable things though they are), and you’re looking forward to a good result that will strengthen Carrie Lam - at least until you let her resign.
Hong Kong people, on the other hand, were expecting the elections to be cancelled, right up until very last minute. Or there was the theory that there would be some excuse to end voting early before most of the pan-democrat supporters had got to the polling stations.
After all, why would they risk things going wrong? Surely it was obvious to anyone who was paying attention that the majority of voters would take the opportunity to express their feelings - of (qualified) support for the protestors and contempt for Carrie Lam and her administration.
But, no, the election went ahead, and vast crowds turned up from early in the morning right through until the evening. People were happy to queue up for an hour or more.
- By 11:30 am, one million people had voted. It took until 6.30 pm for the same number of votes to be recorded in 2015.
- By 3:30 pm it was over two million. That’s about one-third more than the total number of votes in 2015.
- The final total was just below 3 million. A turnout rate of 71%, compared to 47% last time.
The result was a landslide victory for the pan democrats. 17 out of 18 councils, 60% of the votes, and nearly 400 of the 452 seats. On the pro-government side, the DAB won just 21 seats, compared with 119 four years ago. Plenty of big names lost their seats, including Junius Ho Kwan-yiu, Michael Tien Puk-sun, Holden Chow Ho-ding, Horace Cheung Kwok-kwan, Vincent Cheng Wing-shun and Edward Lau Kwok-fan.
One big factor is that District Council seats are decided under the “First Past the Post” system, whereas of course the more important Legislative Council elections use a form of Proportional Representation that would not produce a “landslide victory” based on 60% of the votes.
The question is what happens next. Will it force Carrie Lam (or the people who give her instructions) to try to find a solution now that they know what the “silent majority” really think?