After nearly half a year of angst, most of Hong Kong is smiling today. The violence has abated. The sun is shining, and the air is cool. Votes have been cast, in record numbers, and 80% of the seats in the District Councils will now be filled by people who are not deemed to be part of the pro-government camp.
It might sound like a cliché, but the people have spoken.
What exactly they have spoken for is still a bit fuzzy. What they have spoken against, is not. There is no fudging this result: the vast majority of Hong Kong people have demanded a new government. And not just at the district level. These elections were not about gardening issues or bus routes. They were about identity.
Those that identified with anyone but the DAB did as they were asked: They stopped the violence. They put away the black garb, and they went to the ballot box. And, as a millennial observing all of this might say, they crushed it.
Can magnanimity now come to the fore, however, as it should? The signs are not good. Protest groups have promised another enormous march on Sunday. Some have demanded the government address their “five demands” before Saturday, “or else”.
It is understandable that protest leaders would want to keep their momentum going. It would not be wise to do so, however. Now would be the time to step back, take a rest, collect some thoughts, and give the central government time to recalculate and recalibrate. Not giving it this breathing room would be the surest way to invite a heavy-handed response.
Moreover, it is time for this protest movement to get some organized leadership. Telegram and adrenaline might have worked up to this point, but now that some people have been given a soapbox to stand on, it would be best if they are allowed to stand on it. And before they stand on that soapbox, it would be best if they figure out what they really want to say.
It is easy to hold five fingers in the air. Getting to the point that those five fingers can be folded back into their palms again is not. This needs to be recognized by the people who were catapulted into local political office yesterday. Allow the headstrong ones to carry on chanting and waving their fingers in the air, no problem; but elected representatives need to start putting up policy platforms that can be worked on.
Will they? Or will this all go straight to their heads? They have a golden opportunity to make some real progress to meet the aspirations of their constituents. Their votes could, if used in a bloc, play a key role in the next election for the Chief Executive.
Their courage and resilience are to be greatly admired. Their maturity and sensibility are what will determine not only their fate, but Hong Kong’s. It can only be hoped that this is what they arm themselves most robustly with in the confrontations to come.