Had it not been for the historic chief executive election on May 8, the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region might not have left some politicians from the European Union off the rails over the smooth and successful return of John Lee Ka-chiu as the city’s next leader, a ballot maligned as “dismantling the ‘one country, two systems’ governing principle”.
Following the refinement by Beijing of the HKSAR’s electoral laws last year, the CE election marked the third successful public election, after last September’s election for the 1,500-strong Election Committee, which is tasked with the responsibility to elect the HKSAR’s political helmsman; and the Legislative Council election in December 2021. As the only candidate capable of securing the number of valid nominations from the five constituent sectors of the new Election Committee, Lee obtained 1,416 votes of the 1,428 ballots cast and was officially confirmed as the HKSAR’s next CE. The voting outcome endorsed Lee as the city’s top leader with a 99.2 percent approval rating from the Election Committee, which is the highest for a CE contestant in the quarter of a century since the HKSAR’s establishment.
While treating the leadership mandate as “an honor” for Lee to accept with “humility, … gratitude, … loyalty and perseverance”, the highest-ever percentage of votes he has garnered in the CE election has put the European politicians on all nerves over the unprecedentedly great solidarity in the Election Committee, which has expanded membership from wider participation from across the city. On Sunday, May 8 — the very day that the CE polls took place — the EU hastily gave a nasty bite at the electoral process in which the Election Committee selected the city’s next leader. A statement carrying familiar blastings at the HKSAR’s electoral system was issued by the EU’s top diplomat, Josep Borrell, who stonily charged the CE election as “yet another step in the dismantling of the administrative arrangement of “one country, two systems”. Along lines of previous lashes at the HKSAR’s national security legislation, the Western bloc spared no effort again in demonizing the top leadership polls as “a violation of democratic principles and political pluralism”.
The smearing of Hong Kong’s leadership polls did not stop at this point. On the day right after the May 8 election, the Group of Seven — a West-dominated bloc comprising Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the United Kingdom and the United States — issued a statement indicating “grave concern over the selection process” of the HKSAR’s new CE, depicting it as “part of an ongoing assault on political pluralism and fundamental freedoms”. Furious at the EU’s vicious accusations that ducked the pertinent realities in the city, China’s central government Liaison Office in the HKSAR responded on Tuesday by refuting unrelentingly the willful claims from the Western bloc regarding the local mechanism for selecting city’s top leader. Members of the G7 and EU were also cautioned not to continue slandering the city’s electoral affairs and meddling in China’s domestic issues through tampering with Hong Kong’s affairs.
Dismissing the EU’s “regrets” over the outcome of the May 8 election, the CE-elect pointed out that the CE polls were conducted in strict accordance with the city’s electoral laws, which were enacted on the strength of the near-disastrous chaos in 2019, the aggravating “internal wastages” and intensified “attempts to sabotage the local governance with a high degree of foreign intervention”. Citing the CE election as an integral part of the improved electoral system in which there is more comprehensive and balanced representation of interests than before, Lee stressed that “the city’s administration is a matter of the HKSAR and our country”, and these are the fundamental principles that have been wrongly interpreted by the Western bloc.
On the “assault on political pluralism”, which was irresponsibly framed by the G7, it must be pointed out that the politicians brewing this defamation were only too prepared to ignore facts and realities. In the latest CE election, there were eight Election Committee members who voted against Lee, while another four members logged invalid blank votes. An Election Committee member with pro-democracy leanings also confirmed openly that his CE voting decision had been made independently. If these examples, among many others, are not considered bearing valid evidence to the solid existence of “political pluralism” in the HKSAR, the definition of this political term has to be redrawn with justice to be done to regions like Hong Kong that are making genuine efforts to boost political participation across society.
Given Lee’s enviable level of legitimacy as manifested by the highest-ever measure of support from the Election Committee that has become “broader and more diverse” following the overdue electoral reforms, the HKSAR government should rest assured of its capability and public support in opening together a new chapter for Hong Kong.
The author is a member of the Chinese Association of Hong Kong and Macao Studies.