Democracy in a Petri Dish

Petri dishes are used for growing things – microorganisms that might turn out to grow. Or, they might turn out not to grow.

Such is Hong Kong – a petri dish for a democratic movement that might that might turn out to grow. Or, it might turn out not to grow.

If you’re interested in the tension between democracy and autocracy, you could do worse than to keep your eyes trained on Hong Kong. Ever since the abortive but exceedingly important Umbrella Revolution (or Movement) of two years ago – during which primarily young political activists protested China’s growing control over what they perceived their domain – Hong Kong has been a focal point, potentially a flash point. On the one hand is China, which has grown more oppressive, repressive. On the other hand is Hong Kong, which now is part of China but which, for historical reasons, is distinct from China. As a result, Hong Kong denizens have grown increasingly, if still cautiously, resistant to China’s increasingly heavy hand.

Just last Sunday were elections in which pro-democracy politicians managed to snag 30 of the legislatures’ 70 electoral seats. This in spite of the fact that the system of voting was designed, rigged if you prefer, to favor China loyalists. Moreover, one of the elected legislators was a leader of the 2014 pro-democracy protests, who previously, not incidentally, was sentenced to 120 hours of community service for his political activities.

This drama is by no means over. Likely we’re only in Act One. It remains to be seen how Beijing will respond to this latest turn of events. And it remains to be seen how, in turn, Hong Kong will respond to Beijing’s response. Stay tuned.



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