This week is one of those time when one hopes that the people of Hong Kong know what Lech Wałęsa knew, and our “elites”, then as now, didn’t:
he Hong Kong pro-democracy movement achieved a stunning victory in Sunday’s district-council elections. With turnout exceeding 70 percent, close to 90 percent of the seats went to pro-democracy candidates, who took 17 of the 18 district councils. As the first electoral barometer of public sentiment since protests began in June, the results are a turning point in the conflict that has wracked Hong Kong for the last six months.
Though the district councils’ authority is mostly local, they appoint 117 of the 1,200 members of Hong Kong’s Election Committee. Coupled with the roughly 400 opposition members already sitting on the election committee, the additional seats will give the pro-democracy camp much greater sway when the next chief executive of Hong Kong is selected in 2022. The current chief executive, Carrie Lam, has denounced this year’s protests and remained staunchly on the side of Beijing.
Watching how squarely our “elites” have come down , not so much “on Beijing’s side” as “trying not to cheese off the benevolent dictors” reminds me of life in the late seventies, when “detente” so frequently overrode any desire to call out the Soviets for what they actually were. It remained up to the locals – the Poles, Estonians, Czechs – and dissidents here at home, the “crazies” and “McCarthyite Cold Warriors”, to remind the world.
And the idea that the world would go from the squashing of Solidarity in 1980 to the fall of the Wall within ten years was almost as unthinkable as the idea of calling for a landing on the moon by 1970 in 1960.
As it seems today.
Keep your fingers crossed.