Opening a new phase of crisis, was the exclusion from the Legislative Council, prompted by Beijing, of two ‘Youngspiration’ parliamentarians, a ‘localist’ party. Their ‘fault’, having failed to observe the oath of taking office. During the installation of the renewed mini-parliament, on October 12, the 30 year-old Sixto Baggio and 25 year-old Leung Yau Wai-ching, wrapped themselves in a flag with the words ‘Hong Kong is not China’ and used words considered inappropriate in internal China to reclaim the right to autonomy, welfare and housing, as well as to indicate their allegiance to the ‘nation of Hong Kong’. The second possibility, their offer on October 25, was neutralized by the exit of the parliamentary majority from the parliament chamber.
They will not have a third possibility, because a few days later came the order to stop from Beijing. ‘Whoever does not follow the prescribed text for the oath’ or ‘swears disingenuously and not solemnly’ should be suspended from office, the Committee on the Basic Law of Hong Kong of the Chinese Parliament sentenced.
A rare intervention, not surprisingly accompanied by a statement from the Chinese Foreign Ministry on its need to ‘control the separatist forces’ and to ‘guarantee prosperity and stability in Hong Kong’. The reaction of the Democrats, who had already taken to the streets in their thousands, and who once again clashed with police, was immediate. Faced with a situation that could get out of hand for the local government, the risk of a full application of the Security Act of 2003 again resurfaced which, if set with the consent of Beijing, would consign further protests to illegality and repression. So far, however, a period of relative calm has followed. Apparently, at least, awaiting the vote in March and its repercussions on the unquiet political world.
Primary recipient of the demand for autonomy was Leung Chun-ying (better known as C Y Leung), as Chief Executive since 2012. In the election, Leung was committed not only to ensuring universal suffrage for the successor in 2017 but also to reform the parliamentary system, guaranteeing greater representation to the non-elective section. Failing on both counts, he became the target of criticism but also of the request for resignation and found himself constantly in the sights of the opposition, accused of excessive accommodation to the Beijing pressures on the territory administered by him. The use of tear gas and pepper spray he had ordered, to disperse the occupation of the areas surrounding the headquarters of political power, did not help to guarantee him sympathy and support. This also placed Leung in a position of great embarrassment for the subsequent effect even on foreign countries. An embarrassment doubled when his package of reforms in the sense of universal suffrage for the Chief Executive but not the choice between a plurality of candidates, was rejected in June 2016 by 28 votes against the eight in favor, due to a misunderstanding, with parliamentarians of his area who left the hall causing him to lack a majority.
On the other hand, to highlight the trends between lights and shadows in Hong Kong was C Y Leung himself, in the remarks at his concluding tenure of office speech on January 18. Among his successes, the limitation to two in 2013 for the purchase of milk packs for babies to be bought by inland Chinese to avoid hoarding; the prohibition, in the same year, for pregnant women from other regions of China to travel to Hong Kong to give birth in order to get better care and future benefits for their children; the prohibition for entrepreneurs to use the pension funds of the workers to pay for their own investments and debts.
There was partial success for the urban planning objectives in a claustrophobic and overcrowded territory. Confirmed only last year, the addition in the decade following of 280 thousand new apartments of public housing and 180 thousand of private buildings, the government has already had to admit in recent months that in 2027 the target will be missed by at least 44 thousand housing units because of the difficulty of finding suitable land and overcoming practical difficulties.
Undoubtedly the pressure of the great China, which has not only ideological aspects but concrete impacts on local demographics, on the services available and the rising costs, is the biggest challenge for the local government, a challenge that Leung dealt with by paying more attention to Beijing’s demands than to those of his fellow citizens, particularly those of young people. (S.V.)