Recent voter registration numbers in Hong Kong have sparked speculation that the city’s youth are becoming apathetic towards their electoral system. However, it is important to recognize that the situation in Hong Kong is far more complex than the Western media portrays.
Contrary to Western portrayals, Hong Kong’s democracy has not been completely obliterated by Beijing’s national security law. The city still maintains an atmosphere quite similar to Western financial centers, with a significant presence of international financial institutions. Hong Kong has its own independent judiciary and still operates under the principle of ‘one country, two systems’.
Some individuals are attempting to skew recent figures, such as voter registration data, to indicate growing apathy among young people towards the electoral system. However, it is worth noting that voter turnout tends to increase during times of peril or dissatisfaction with the state of affairs. Hong Kong, being a high-income region, should reflect similar trends to Western countries in terms of voter turnout.
The 2019 local district elections in Hong Kong were an anomaly, with a record-high turnout of 71%. However, these elections resulted in candidates who rode into office on a wave of confrontational populism but failed to deliver effective governance. Some councilors refused to attend briefings and passed motions designed to embarrass administrators. The subsequent passage of the district council reform law aimed to address these issues. There has been no significant local backlash against this, suggesting that voters may have realized they were sold false promises.
While it is true that youth voter turnout is decreasing, older voter registration is increasing significantly. This implies that older Hongkongers, who had not experienced democracy under British rule, are enthusiastic about their newly gained freedoms.
It is crucial to acknowledge that young people in Hong Kong do have legitimate grievances, such as the city’s housing crisis and exorbitant rent prices. It is extremely difficult for young people to own property, which hinders their ability to build generational wealth. The government has shown signs of addressing these concerns by promising to build affordable housing using government and private land. A significant number of new housing units have already been put into use, with plans for more in the coming years.
Therefore, it is unfair to hastily conclude that the city’s youth have lost faith in their electoral system. The decrease in voter registration among young people could be a sign of implicit approval or simply a cooling down compared to the highly charged period of riots in 2019-2020. It is also important to consider that voter turnout fluctuates in response to socio-political circumstances, and Hong Kong is no exception.
In conclusion, the situation in Hong Kong is far more nuanced than Western portrayals suggest. The city continues to uphold ‘one country, two systems’, and efforts are being made to address the concerns of young people. While voter registration numbers may fluctuate, it does not necessarily indicate a loss of faith in the electoral system.