Will China allow Hong Kong to develop its democracy or launch further crackdowns that could kill the goose that lays the golden eggs, asks Angus Robertson.
Rioting on the streets of Hong Kong has dominated the global headlines for months now. Ironically it may be the power of the ballot box that really shakes thing up. Voters in the former British colony have used their limited electoral rights to elect pro-democracy candidates right across the territory.
More than 71 per cent of voters turned out for local elections to district councils with extremely limited municipal powers. Seventeen of 18 Hong Kong councils now have a pro-democracy majority.
This, however, was not an election about bus routes and rubbish collection, it was effectively a referendum on the current situation in Hong Kong.
With fears growing about authoritarian Chinese influence, civil unrest has escalated in recent months with increasing levels of violence resulting in a severe police crackdown.
In the middle of this has been the pro-China Hong Kong chief executive Carrie Lam, who has been incapable of satisfying the protesters while looking over her shoulder at her masters in Beijing. She has said that she respects the results, but a lot more is going to have to change before calm is restored. Whenever it comes to selecting her replacement, they will be selected by a committee including the newly elected pro-democracy councillors.
Communist decision-makers in Beijing now have a real headache. ‘Two systems, one country’ was supposed to allow Hong Kong to flourish economically and politically while formally being part of China.
We will soon find out if Chinese authorities have the imagination to allow the people of Hong Kong to protect their rights and develop their democracy, or whether they crack down further and kill the goose that lays the golden eggs in south-east Asia.