The World Today for December 10, 2021

NEED TO KNOW

Pig in the Poke

HONG KONG

A wild boar infestation in Hong Kong provided fodder for a political cartoonist who was critical of how Chinese authorities demanded to screen candidates who could run in the city’s legislative elections on Dec. 19.

As the Washington Post explained, the artist drew a hog eyeballing a bag of money, a sliced loaf of bread and a ballot box. Behind a nearby tree kneeled a policeman with his gun drawn. The implication is that Hong Kong voters participating in the upcoming elections under Chinese officials who have eroded the former British colony’s democracy and human rights are like animals led to slaughter.

In September, Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam said the system would ensure that only “patriots administer Hong Kong.”

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Hong Kong pro-democracy activists like Nathan Law, who received asylum in Britain last year, called the elections a sham. “Just ignore them,” Law told Reuters. “We should not give any legitimacy to the elections, we should not pretend we have elections – it is just a selection by Beijing.”

If Law was still in his hometown, he might now be in jail. Chinese authorities have issued arrest warrants for pro-democracy activists who have called on voters to boycott the elections. “Hong Kong Says Vote – or Else,” said the headline of a Wall Street Journal editorial.

The absence of a legitimate democratic process might be one reason pollsters found that around 60 percent of Hong Kong voters don’t even know who is running to represent them in the city’s Legislative Council. According to the South China Morning Post, more than half the electorate still plans to turn out to the polls. But that’s down from voting rates of 80 percent in the previous council elections.

Importantly, the elections are the first since China imposed a national security law on Hong Kong that significantly reduces the city’s independence and took a sledgehammer to its democratic institutions. Protests erupted after the law came into effect last year but many activists who led that civil unrest are now in jail or have fled to other countries.

The law was part of a broader Chinese campaign to consolidate power while cracking down on political movements that oppose the official communist ideology of leaders on the mainland, wrote U.S. News and World Report. Similar policies are behind China’s allegedly genocidal campaign against the Muslim Uyghur community in Xinjiang and its toughening military pressure on Taiwan, the independent country that the Chinese government considers a breakaway province.

One wonders what’s the point of having elections at all. Authoritarians, however, need the trappings of democracy to retain power, Bloomberg noted.

But when it comes to these elections, everyone in Hong Kong seems to know there’s a pig in this poke.

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