SONG CHEN/CHINA DAILY
The 2023 District Council Ordinary Election, conducted under the new electoral system of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region, was successfully held on Sunday, signaling the completion of the reshaping of the SAR's governance and the realization of the principle of "patriots governing Hong Kong".
The smooth formation of the new district councils and the strengthening and upgrading of the district-level administrative system of the SAR government will enhance the quality and effectiveness of Hong Kong's governance, and lay a solid foundation for the steady development of Hong Kong-style democracy that is compatible with "one country, two systems" and the Basic Law.
From a political point of view, the significance of the successful District Council Ordinary Election does not lie in the voter turnout but in the further consolidation of the practice of "patriots governing Hong Kong" through the election process, which is conducive to implementing "one country, two systems", ensuring Hong Kong's political stability and good governance, and securing a better future for Hong Kong.
The election can, therefore, be regarded as a top-down, large-scale political reform that has strengthened the patriotic influence in the government. This in turn has strengthened the SAR government's unity, political acumen and political mobilization capability, and deepened its connections with the people, broadening the social base of the patriotic forces.
The SAR government showed unprecedented organizational and mobilization capabilities during the election, with Chief Executive John Lee Ka-chiu and other officials sparing no effort to explain the functions and responsibilities of the thoroughly reformed DCs to Hong Kong residents, underscoring their importance to the public's well-being, and encouraging qualified voters to cast their ballots in the election.
From another perspective, the election provided the Hong Kong government with a rare opportunity to carry out large-scale mobilization of government officials, which also served as an excellent "troop training" exercise, strengthening the unity, division of labor, and coordination among government departments and civil servants. All these are essential for improving the political and administrative capability of the government.
The election has also strengthened the Hong Kong government's ties with the public and gathered valuable experience for deepening cooperation with the public in different fields. To publicize the revamped election and encourage Hong Kong residents to vote, the government worked with many business and professional bodies, social and media organizations and celebrities.
In fact, the election has enhanced the government's ability to reach out to all sectors of society, mobilize and coordinate huge amounts of social resources, and, to a certain extent, narrowed the gap between the government and society.
With social conflicts having worsened because of economic difficulties and the Hong Kong government finding it difficult to cope with the troubles due to a shortage of financial resources, closer collaboration between the government and society could help ameliorate the conflicts and maintain political stability in the future. As a matter of fact, the closer government-society ties forged by the election will increase Hong Kong's capability to solve problems during the difficult days ahead.
In the election, the patriotic forces demonstrated unprecedented unity and political mobilization capability, and patriotic groups and celebrities came out in full force to urge people to vote, creating a vibrant and "carnival" atmosphere.
Although the election involved competition among patriotic candidates, patriotic people did not show any signs of exclusive partisanship because of their connections with different parties and organizations. On the contrary, the candidates engaged in fair competition. And while personal attacks, abusive criticism, rumors, slander and physical attacks of the past were absent this time, hyped-up political issues were no longer electoral issues, and no anti-China rhetoric was heard. Instead, problems and issues related to residents' daily lives and community well-being drew the candidates' attention.
Some situations rarely seen in the past were evident in this election. For example, to enhance Hong Kong residents' awareness of and support for the election, some relatively well-known patriots, including Legislative Council and Executive Council members, endorsed the candidates from different parties and organizations simultaneously. And parties and organizations supporting various candidates in the same electoral district canvassed for votes for their candidates and opponents simultaneously.
This was possible because no opponent was considered an "enemy" that must be trounced. By supporting candidates irrespective of their political affiliations, the celebrities and "political stars" mainly hoped to increase Hong Kong residents' awareness about the district council elections and galvanize their support for the new electoral arrangements, the government, the new political order and the central government.
To fully realize the principle of "patriots governing Hong Kong", it is essential that the young people who love the country and Hong Kong participate in elections. The election became an excellent occasion to identify and groom a new generation of patriotic political talent.
Many young candidates this time were highly educated or highly qualified, whereas in the past, political struggles occurred one after another instigated by the anti-China radicals and external forces. As such, many patriotic young people regarded politics as a daunting and dangerous affair, resulting in a shortage of candidates and insufficient talent in the patriotic camp. After the central government helped the SAR government to end the political turmoil in Hong Kong, "patriots governing Hong Kong" became a reality, and the mischievous and destructive internal and external forces could no longer wreak havoc in the SAR.
In the new political environment, a career as a politician has become a respectable option for many young people who can realize their political ambitions as well as serve society. After the electoral methods for the chief executive, the Legislative Council and the district councils are revamped, political career development will become more apparent and attainable.
With more and more ambitious and talented young people willing to join the patriotic camp and enter politics, the patriotic forces will grow unabatedly in Hong Kong. This will benefit the long-term practice of "patriots governing Hong Kong" and ensure political stability and effective governance of the city.
The Dec 10 election has, to a certain extent, reshaped Hong Kong's political order and governance model in the right direction, facilitating Hong Kong's move from chaos to order. The election may further consolidate the practice of "patriots governing Hong Kong" and secure Hong Kong's bright future under "one country, two systems".
The author is a professor emeritus of sociology at the Chinese University of Hong Kong and a consultant to the Chinese Association of Hong Kong and Macao Studies. The views do not necessarily reflect those of China Daily.
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