24 November 2019   Leave a comment

Hong Kong held elections for 452 elected district councilor seats, the local government for the city. Turnout was exceptionally high, with 2.9 million people voting, a turnout of 71% of registered voters. The district council does not have a great deal of power, and candidates who advocated for Hong Kong “self-determination” were not allowed to run. But the vote was symbolic, as described by National Public Radio:

“Hong Kong’s 452 elected councilors normally concern themselves with more mundane tasks, such as overseeing garbage disposal policies and street lighting. They have advisory functions and control over how some of the city’s finances are disbursed locally, but possess no lawmaking abilities.

“‘They do not listen to our opinions actually. They can do whatever they want, and we cannot monitor them,’ said Philip Wong, 40, who was preparing to cast his ballot Sunday morning for first-time candidate Isaac Ho, a founding member of the pan-democratic group Community March.

“But this year, Wong says, his vote mattered more: ‘Whether or not [this election] makes a change, it is a reflection of the Hong Kong people’s voice. We can use the vote to express our discontent and dissatisfaction with the current government and the police brutality.’

“And district councilors are not entirely powerless.About a quarter of them, 117, also sit on the 1,200-member council that elects the city’s chief executive. District councilors also are allocated six seats on the city’s 70-person Legislative Council, which sets policy. Pan-democrats are hoping that by electing a majority in the district councils, they may be able to tip Hong Kong’s historically pro-Beijing lawmaking bodies in their favor.”

The final results of the election are not available right now but the preliminary results show the pro-democracy candidates winning a majority. According to Reuters: “Pro-democracy candidates had secured a clear majority by 8.00 a.m. (midnight GMT Sunday) with 333 of 452 seats, compared with 52 for the pro-establishment camp, according to media estimates.” But the turnout alone shows that the people of Hong Kong have been mobilized by the protests.

Arundhati Roy is no fan of the Modi government in India and she has written a beautifully written essay on why she is opposed to the policies of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). It is a full-throated defense of secular government and does a wonderful job of tying the situation in India to the larger crisis of climate change.

” The violence of inclusion and the violence of exclusion are precursors of a convulsion that could alter the foundations of India, and rearrange its meaning and its place in the world. The Constitution calls India a secular, socialist republic. We use the word “secular” in a slightly different sense from the rest of the world—for us, it’s code for a society in which all religions have equal standing in the eyes of the law. In practice, India has been neither secular nor socialist. In effect, it has always functioned as an upper-caste Hindu state. But the conceit of secularism, hypocritical though it may be, is the only shard of coherence that makes India possible. That hypocrisy was the best thing we had. Without it, India will end….

“India is not really a country. It is a continent. More complex and diverse, with more languages—780 at last count, excluding dialects—more nationalities and sub-nationalities, more indigenous tribes and religions than all of Europe. Imagine this vast ocean, this fragile, fractious, social ecosystem, suddenly being commandeered by a Hindu supremacist organisation that believes in a doctrine of One Nation, One Language, One Religion, One Constitution….”

The essay is quite long but it is well worth a careful read. Her analysis applies to many countries in the world that are currently experiencing the power of nationalism.

Posted November 24, 2019 by vferraro1971 in World Politics

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