On 2 August it was announced that after the term of the last LegCo councillors expires, the power to decide who will rule Hong Kong over the next year will be handed over to 5 to 7 members of the Chinese Communist Party’s National People’s Congress Standing Committee meeting in Beijing.
Current LegCo members opposed to the National Security Law (NSL) will likely be removed. They had already been barred from standing again for LegCo. Hong Kong faces thinly-veiled direct rule from the CCP in Beijing.
On Tuesday 28 July, Benny Tai, initiator of the 2014 Occupy movement, was fired from Hong Kong University.
The next day, four young democracy activists between 16 and 21 years old were arrested under the NSL — the first by the new security agency set up by the CCP in Hong Kong. They were later released on bail but the charge — advocating Hong Kong independence — remains against them and carries a possible life sentence.
On the same day election officers began barring pro-democracy candidates for the Legislative Council (LegCo). On 31 July, Carrie Lam, “Chief Executive” of Hong Kong, called off the September LegCo elections entirely for 12 months, using the limited new Covid-19 surge as her excuse.
The whole focus of a united democracy movement had been on the LegCo elections after the democrats had swept the board last November in the District Council elections.
On 11-12 July, the pro-democracy movement ran primaries for the LegCo contest, and 600,000 Hong Kongers took part in spite of legal threats. In the main radical young protestors won those primaries. It looked like democrats opposed to the NSL and demanding universal suffrage would take most of the democratically-elected seats in LegCo (half of the total) in September.
With even one or two of the “functional” seats — elected by a far smaller electorate and generally stacked with opponents of universal suffrage — the radicals might even have got a majority.
Hong Kong urgently needs democracy in order to resist the tightening grip of the CCP. Councillors from 17 of the 18 pro-democracy district councils have met to demand the withdrawal of the NSL. The pro-democracy candidates from the LegCo primaries have a strong mandate.
They need to move quickly before a wedge is driven within the democracy movement by those who want to accommodate to direct rule. Organised working-class resistance will be central to sustaining democratic counter-power.
• More about Labour Movement Solidarity with Hong Kong (UK) here