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 Post Posted: Mon Sep 05, 2016 8:03 pm 
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So, the majority is still pro-China, and the protesting party has gained. I understand there's also some other pro-democracy party.

Kea, can you describe how things are?

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 Post Posted: Tue Sep 06, 2016 12:21 am 
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Whoah. Thanks for asking!

Yeah, we had the first major elections since Occupy Central in 2014 the other day. It was epic. There were lines outside some understaffed polling stations until 1:30 a.m. Here are the important bits.

1. The pro-democracy forces gained 3 seats, including 6 (mostly very young) radical candidates who emerged from the 2014 protests. They are advocating for self-determination, if not outright independence. We had a 58% turnout rate, the highest ever. And the democrats retained their 1/3 veto in the chamber that prevents the government from ramming through any constitutional changes, i.e. a new national security law. The pro-government side is still in the majority, because the chamber is stacked. There are a number of seats reserved for corporate interests.

2. There are a multitude of pro-democracy parties, divided roughly into 4 factions, and there are several parties belonging to each faction. They include the old school mainstream democrats who believe in polite peaceful protest and negotiating with Beijing. There's old-school mainstream labour parties, which are the same thing but with a more working-class social welfare oriented bent. There's old-school radicals who believe in dramatic protest tactics such as throwing fruit at political leaders, scuffling with the police, and filibustering (*). These three factions share the unifying principle that they are Chinese patriots, but merely anti-CCP, and hope that China will one day become a democracy. The fourth faction, called "localists", came out of the failed protest movement and their attitude is "screw China, Hong Kong should go its own way". They have Beijing freaking the hell out.

3. Beijing has resorted to all kinds of shady methods to manipulate this election. They voided the candidacies of several pro-independence candidates on the flimsy grounds that advocating independence is unconstitutional. One pro-government candidate (from a party deemed insufficiently loyal) was intimidated into dropping out to avoid diluting the votes of his more favoured rival. There were also reports of phantom voters, ballot box stuffing, and the old Wheel Grannies to the Polls gambit. Including nursing home patients with dementia - they had the correct candidate numbers written on their palms.

4. The large and varied band of pro-democrats is fractious and poorly coordinated. They ran way too many tickets for the number of seats available. The electoral system is designed specifically to encourage Nadering (multi-seat constituencies allocated through proportional representation with largest remainder method, for the math geeks). It was up to the voters to vote strategically, abandoning the no-hopers and spreading their votes as evenly as possible between the others. This was done through crowd-sourcing. Much harder than busing grannies and granddads to polls. Considering all of the above, the democrats' gains are all the more impressive.

5. The old-school radicals and old-school labour democrats lost out though; out-competed by the new radicals. Beijing's probably pissing its pants now.

6. In pro-government circles there are grumblings from some quarters that the government is making things worse by feeding the independence trolls, and suspicions that they are exaggerating the threat to make themselves look heroic. There are factional splits in the pro-government side, a lot of loyalists openly despise the current Chief Executive CY Leung, but it's all very opaque and we don't know how high up it goes. We're living in interesting times.

* In Hong Kong, filibustering actually requires dragging things out forever, usually done by filing thousands of tiny insignificant amendments to a bill. You can't just say "filibuster!" and have that stand.

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 Post Posted: Wed Sep 07, 2016 12:11 pm 
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What percentage of the popular support did the various factions gain or loose?

Is the pro government a monolithic block, or do they have competing subfactions too?

Can the new radicals actually do anything, or is Beijing nervous because they fear a slippery slope.

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 Post Posted: Wed Sep 07, 2016 9:18 pm 
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OK this is gonna be long.

1. The popular vote
Somebody has helpfully put the popular vote tallies on Wikipedia already.

Geographical Constituencies = 35 seats elected by regular voters
Functional Constituencies = 30 seats elected by special interest groups, so no popular vote.
District Council Superseats = 5 seats elected by a hybrid method. Candidates consist of district councilors (the lowest level of local government) who are nominated by their fellow councilors, and then put up to the popular vote.

In 2012:
The democratic camp won 56% of the popular vote in the geographic constituencies and 18 seats.
The pro-government side won 43% of the vote and 17 seats.
Non-aligned independents won 1% of the vote and 0 seats.

The democratic camp constituencies won 6 functional constituency seats
The pro-government side won 24 functional constituency seats

The democratic camp won 51% of the popular vote for the DC Superseats, and got 3 seats
The pro-government side got 45% of the popular vote, and 2 seats.
Non-aligned independents won 4% of the vote, and 0 seats.

In 2016:
In the geographical constituencies, old-school democrats won 36% of the popular vote while localists won 19%, making a total of 55% of the popular vote. They got 13 and 6 seats respectively, so 19 seats total.
The pro-government side got 40% of the popular vote and 16 seats.
Non-aligned independents got 4% of the vote, and 0 seats.

In the functional constituencies, the democrats got 7 seats.
The pro-government side got 22 seats.
A non-aligned independent (democratic leaning) got 1 seat. (This seat - architecture, surveying and planning - traditionally goes to the government side.)

In the DC superseats, the democrats got 58% of the popular vote, and 3 seats.
The pro-government side got 42% of the popular vote, and 2 seats.

As you can see, the democrats didn't really improve their vote share. It took a massive turnout just to counter the granny-busing tactics of the government side. However, they used their votes more efficiently, and in doing so clawed out 1 more geographical seat by a narrow margin. They also blundered a bit and had a couple of narrow losses, so they could've won even more. The architecture seat contains a mixture of human and corporate voters, so it can be flipped with difficulty, and this time they pulled it off. The doctors also flipped back to the democratic side too.

2. Factional splits in the pro-government side
Yes, there are splits in the pro-government side, but it's hard to know what's going on and who's aligned with what, exactly. It's muddied by the fact that the pro-government side had created several flavours of loyalist to appeal to different segments of the conservative electorate, but the differences between them are more marketing than real. As best as I can tell, the factions consist of:

a) The Tycoons. Originally loyal to the Brits, they switched sides when China came to get its colony back. While they used to be trusted to run Hong Kong, they have fallen out of favour with Beijing due to their own incompetence and corruption. They openly despise the current Chief Executive, CY Leung, partly for not being pro-business enough (think Jeb Bush Republican vs. Grover Norquist Republican), and partly for being a douche. His personality doesn't have much to recommend.

b) Rural Kingpins. They are the self-proclaimed leaders of the indigenous villagers, people descended from families that were farming here before the arrival of the British. The rural kingpins own vast holdings of land and collude with real estate developers and government for fun and profit. They are nasty pieces of work with ties to organized crime, and were recruited to the loyalist side as muscle. They seem to have their own internal splits, and the candidate who was intimidated into quitting was one rural leader drummed out by another who had secured the backing of the Chinese government.

c) Patriotic Hawks (?) Aligned with current Chief Executive, CY Leung. It's hard to say who these people are exactly, since their public side seems to consist of important people you've never heard of popping out of the woodwork at opportune times to rant about traitors and splittists and CIA plots and how the localists are breaking the law just by existing. I do not know which faction of the Chinese government they are aligned with - whether they are taking orders straight from President Xi Jinping, or whether they're some other faction trying to puff themselves up.

d) Old School Leftists/Patriotic Doves (?) The old school leftists were loyal patriotic communist sympathizers since the 1950s. Shunned under British rule, they were elevated to positions of power when China took the place back in 1997. However, they were always given supporting roles, and never allowed to be in charge. Some of them seem to genuinely care about the welfare of the people, which sets them apart from all the other loyalist factions. They don't like CY Leung and have obliquely criticised his hardline approach for exacerbating tensions. It's hard to tell whether it's just a good cop/bad cop act, or if they have the backing of another faction high up.

e) Bureaucrats. The old British-trained civil service. They're closer to the tycoons than anybody else, especially those in the powerful real estate business. Motivated by careerism and profit, top civil servants have struggled to win the trust of Beijing. They were briefly on top from 2005-12 when career civil servant Donald Tsang became chief executive, but he and his 2nd in command fell to corruption charges. Down the ranks, the civil servants mostly want to protect their (substantial) paychecks and avoid controversy. Individually there are some civil servants who want to do good things for the community, but as an institution, they're rigid and narrow-minded.

3. Can the radicals do anything?
As legislators, they have limited powers. The legislative council was set up to make it hard for legislators to propose bills, so legislators can only question government policies in committees and vote on government-proposed legislation. They can filibuster. Their only power is being the biggest pain in the arse to the government as possible, a role the radicals seem happy to fulfill.

But this is not why Beijing is freaking out. They are freaking out because until last year, we had no independence movement. It was a beyond a fringe idea. They are exceedingly jumpy about the idea of independence because they have Tibet, Xinjiang and Taiwan(1) wanting to fly off too, and they consider that a grave threat to China's territorial integrity and national security.

Especially since some of the more radical radicals have publicly stated that they are not averse to using violence (2) to achieve their aims, the hardline faction portrays them as a bunch of terrorists.

They're probably also alarmed by the fact that there is strong support for the radicals among people aged 18-29. They've lost a whole generation. They were hoping that young people born after the Handover would grow up to be patriots, and the democrats would age themselves out. Nope.

(1) Taiwan's been a de-facto separate country since 1949, but they won't admit it.
(2) By which they mean rioting. There aren't any guns here.

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 Post Posted: Tue Sep 13, 2016 10:29 pm 
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Be fair, Taiwan is a de jure separate country (though they won't admit it).

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 Post Posted: Wed Sep 14, 2016 12:12 am 
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Technically, they're still the government of China in exile, which makes their independence movement an exercise in pretzel logic. Wheee.

The fractures between the Chinese Hawks and the Chinese Doves (Crows? Vultures? It is hard to tell) have gotten bigger. Somebody has been publishing editorials in one of the minor pro-government newspapers accusing the bureau responsible for overseeing Hong Kong (1) not only of deliberately stirring up the independence trolls, but of being holdout followers of Bo Xilai, the disgraced Chongqing party chief.

If you've never heard of the guy, Bo Xilai was president Xi Jinping's chief rival, and was brought down on corruption charges a couple of years ago in a bizarre scandal involving his wife allegedly murdering a British businessman. Bo's allies and proteges have been systematically purged.

It is as if somebody is jumping up and down saying, "Hey, boss! Boss! You missed a spot!"

This seems very unlikely. How could a government as paranoid as the Chinese Communist Party miss a spot that big? It is all very curious. The Chief Executive's term ends next year and it looks to me like different factions are jockeying for power by accusing the others of being disloyal. And the thing we learn from all of this is that the fate of Hong Kong is going to be determined by palace intrigue.

(1) Unofficially, of course. Officially, Hong Kong is autonomous. *cough*

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 Post Posted: Wed Sep 14, 2016 7:24 am 
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Are there any indications, that there is real support for seperatism (and probably has been all along, but the supporters either did not want to rock the boat or had been in a spiral of silence), or that it is more like Hong Kong voters have discovered the protest vote?

Overall my impression is, that Hong Kong for a long time had a "don't rock the boat" consensus and that it now has been abandoned. Or at least that some factions like to demonstrate that "we too can rock the boat, so be carefull".

I don't know enough about chinese palace intrigue details, but based on how authoritarian regiemes usually work a successfull purge has to be threatening enough, that nobody wants to get into the focus but limited enough, that thoose who can't switch sides, are too few to build a faction that can resist the purge. So i would assume that there are still some less prominent Bo Xilai followers, who have switched sides to avoid the purge. The other thing is, that authoritarian regimes like to avoid messages like "out previous strategy did not work out like we thought, so we try out a different now" and therefore is such a case communicate "we have discovered sabotage and punished all the goats responsible, now we use the only good and true strategy, that a wise goverment would use".

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 Post Posted: Wed Sep 14, 2016 10:42 am 
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Most supporters of the independence movement aren't really serious. I think polls show that about 17% of the population (most of them young) support independence, but only about 4% believe that it's actually attainable. The rest are essentially doing it as a protest, a.k.a. trolling.

It came out of the frustration of the failure of the 2014 street protests. A number of people have finally decided that the Chinese government can't be reasoned with; it must be resisted. What this does is mark the end of the respectability politics that defined the democrats for the last 30 years. Previous generations of democrats played by the rules even though they knew the rules to be rigged."Look at us, we're not a threat, we're responsible people. We just want to vote for our leaders, that's all. It's just one measly mayor. We don't want to overthrow you."

Now we have a critical mass of "!%*!%$ you and the horse you rode in on!"

Quote:
The other thing is, that authoritarian regimes like to avoid messages like "out previous strategy did not work out like we thought, so we try out a different now" and therefore is such a case communicate "we have discovered sabotage and punished all the goats responsible, now we use the only good and true strategy, that a wise goverment would use".


I considered that as a possibility, but it doesn't fit the usual pattern. Normally when the authorities want to signal that a person or a group has fallen out of favour, they wouldn't publish accusatory editorials in a minor newspaper (owned by a businessman who is a fugitive from financial fraud charges!) They would publicly snub them through protocol, for example, by pushing them off to the side in an official photograph or making them sit somewhere less prestigious at a meeting. And they would drop obvious hints in the People's Daily, the flagship government mouthpiece.

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 Post Posted: Sun Sep 18, 2016 11:32 am 
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So, it seems there are some voter irregularities. I'm not sure how significant this is overall.

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 Post Posted: Mon Sep 19, 2016 12:11 am 
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Yes, that happened. There were also several voters who claimed on Facebook that they went to the polling station only to find that they were marked down as already having voted. Somebody claimed that they were given a pre-marked ballot, and when they complained to the poll workers, they were only given a blank one and no further action was taken. I mentioned previously the gross busing in of senile old folk. There was also mass busing of "indigenous villagers" who no longer live in their villages, or even on this side of the border, to village polling stations.

In the end, nothing much will come of the investigations. A few minor offenders (incorrect addresses and so on) may be punished but it's not like they're going to call a do-over election.

The new radical legislators are kicking up a ruckus already. One of them, Mr. Chu Hoi-dick, is a land justice advocate who has blazed into office promising to expose the corruption of the rural kingpins. He claims that the government scaled down a plan to build public housing appease a powerful rural landlord. So instead of building the housing on a piece of uninhabited land being used as a parking lot (which the landlord was making money off of, even though part of it is illegally on government land), the government's going to build a smaller amount of housing on a nearby piece of land inhabited by farmers, who are more easily evicted because they are legally squatters even though they have been there for decades. Apparently they never got around to establishing adverse possession, so they can be booted off with minimal compensation.

Chu has received a number of death threats; he and his family have fled from their home, and are currently under 24 hour police protection. He isn't backing down.

The government is issuing sheepish and frantic denials; however there is an official report saying that redeveloping the farms would be "easier" than redeveloping the parking lot and would therefore be done first. Easier? Easier to kick out a bunch of farmers than to buy a parking lot which the government already partly owns? How very curious. It's aaaaalmost like they're afraid of the mob. The pro-government politicians seem to be hemming and hawing. This blogger thinks it's because they're awaiting instructions. Their Chinese handlers have not yet decided whether to prop up the rural kingpins or drop them like a hot potato.

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 Post Posted: Thu Oct 20, 2016 3:31 am 
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Well, this has become a clusterfornication.

The legislators were supposed to have been sworn in last week. To avoid swearing allegiance to the Basic Law (Hong Kong's increasingly threadbare mini-constitution) and the People's Republic of China, most of the new Umbrella legislators deliberately sabotaged their oaths in a variety of creative and hilarious ways.

Two young would-be legislators, who are the most overtly pro-independence of the bunch, had their oaths rejected for too obviously taking the piss. They were then scheduled for a do-over a week later. The two young legislator-elects swore they would do it properly this time.

Much mouth-frothing commenced. Hong Kong's government issued statements saying that they had "hurt the feelings of our compatriots", the standard phrase of aggrieved indignation the Chinese government uses in its diplomatic slap-fights with foreign countries. The government took the extraordinary step of trying to file a court injunction to prevent the two from getting a do-over, arguing that anyone who doesn't take the oath seriously doesn't deserve to be a legislator, there are no second chances, they forfeited their seats, the end, too bad, how sad. The court declined. The government filed an appeal.

At the do-over a week later, pro-government legislators staged a walk-out to deprive the chamber of a quorum, thus preventing the swearing in from taking place. Walk-outs are a tactic usually employed by the democrats. When they were doing it, it was "irresponsible and disruptive", but now that the pro-government forces are doing it, it's heroic.

For now, the fate of the two remains unknown. If the government wins its court case, it will be a bully, the two youngsters will become martyrs, and thought crime will be officially a thing. If it loses, then it will be a fool. There is much speculation that the only reason it would put itself in such an uncomfortable position is pressure from above - somebody Upstairs cannot abide pro-independence activists sitting in the legislature and will do whatever it takes to get rid of them.

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 Post Posted: Fri Oct 21, 2016 7:32 am 
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If the Chinese government were doing smart macciavellism (and it seems lately they are doing less of that, so that is not really a prediction what they will do), it could be that someone higher up the ladder, who is to be groomed as good cop, will graciously decide that their oaths will be accepted this time, not because they are actually valid, but because he is so much more sensible and benevolent and handles spoiled brats with excessive patience.

That way they sort of give a warning "don't go too far", without being too specific what too far is, while they have someone who looks responsible and centrist and a mediator in their camp, to become the hero of the "don#t rock the boat" crowd.

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 Post Posted: Sat Oct 22, 2016 12:17 am 
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That's what they should've done - given them a stern talking-to and let them do it over.

However, they've already escalated the situation past that. The court injunction request was filed by the Chief Executive and the Secretary for Justice - they highest local authorities. If they relent at this point, they will be seen either making an embarrassing climb-down, or being overtly overruled by Them Upstairs, which officially isn't supposed to happen. I mean, everyone knows Beijing meddles, but they try not to do it in the open. So I think they will have to wait for the court ruling.

The courts are the last standing institution that isn't a blatant puppet.

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 Post Posted: Wed Oct 26, 2016 5:42 am 
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Another week, another round of chaos. The president of Legco (similar to the speaker of the house), who is pliant pro-government figure, was browbeaten into cancelling the do-over oaths. The two would-be legislators marched into the council regardless, followed by a bevy of reporters. Chaos broke out. The session was once again adjourned. We can expect weekly repeats of this scene until the court delivers its ruling.

The government has chosen to play chicken with the judicial system. Legally speaking, the court technically may not have jurisdiction over legislative process due to the old common law principle of parliamentary privilege (we still follow British Commonwealth common law). But that's been ignored. Precedent isn't on the government's side, either. Lawmakers have in the past been allowed to retake their oaths, so the government is forced to argue that these two should be disqualified because what they did was worse.

The government is practically daring the court to rule against it, because there is the unspoken threat of busting out the nuclear option if they lose the case. The government can put in a "request" to China's legislature, the National People's Congress, which is exactly as creepy as it sounds, to "reinterpret" our constitution so that it means whatever the Chinese government wants it to mean.(1) This has happened a few times in the past, and every time it does, it's another blow to the integrity of our legal system.

I don't envy the judge in this case. He either has to make up some absolute bollocks case law to allow the government to "win", or he has to let the Chinese government come in and smash things to smithereens.

(1) This would be like if the US government didn't like a Supreme Court ruling, the president could just tell Congress to pass a law saying "Actually, the First Amendment doesn't mean what the Supreme Court says it means, it means this thing we just made up on the spot here."

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 Post Posted: Thu Nov 03, 2016 4:46 am 
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Now we're on week three, or is it four, of chaos.

The Determined Duo once again marched into the legislative chambers and demanded to be sworn in. Three security guards got knocked over in the ensuing shoving match, and were removed from the scene by ambulance (they're fine; they send in EMTs for any perceived injury).

The Chief Executive himself has all but threatened to ask Beijing to Reinterpret the Law to have the duo disqualified for insulting China, which would be a constitutional disaster. Allied media outlets have been warning that Reinterpretation is inevitable, as the Dastardly Duo have so offended the Central Government. Horrible brats. They brought it on themselves.

So far, so normal for a paranoid authoritarian state.

Now here's the weird thing. There are rival pro-government media outlets bashing the Chief Executive for suggesting that reinterpretation is on the table at all. They claim that he is spreading false rumours in order to artificially inflate the threat of "independence activists" so that he can play hero.

There is definitely some kind of power struggle going on upstairs. Hong Kong's Chief Executive and his allies in the Chinese government are known proteges of former Chinese president Jiang Zemin. (That was two presidents ago). The going theory is that President Xi Jinping is trying to take down the last vestiges of the old guard. I don't know whether things will get better or worse if/when Xi prevails.

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