Barely 48 hours after landmark district council elections in which many voters in Hong Kong appeared to extend moral support to pro-democracy protesters, Chinese e-commerce major Alibaba made a scintillating debut on the city's stock exchange, illustrating in a flash the premise and promise of Hong Kong. What it showed was that one of the world's largest initial public offerings this year could stage a near perfect launch from what remains one of the world's most open economies, despite six months of incessant, disruptive and violent protests capped by a polarising election. It is the political framework that supports this unique combination - enterprise, openness and intimate access to the world's second-largest economy - that Hong Kong and Beijing should now double up to preserve. It is no mistake to say that Sunday's election provided a vivid snapshot of public mood, where over 70 per cent of the electorate turned out in a remarkably peaceful vote and ushered pro-democratic candidates into 17 of the 18 district councils.
It was a clear message to the city's government, and to China, that Hong Kong has urgent, unaddressed questions about the quality and direction of its governance. That the point was made through an orderly municipal election made it stark and perhaps more politically potent than the months of violent rallies at government headquarters, malls and MTR stations. The moment is ripe for protesters and the establishment to reclaim clarity of purpose, narrow their differences, and align their paths. Chief Executive Carrie Lam has promised that her government will be introspective and strengthen cooperation with the district councils. After grappling with a rising tide of public unhappiness, she could look afresh at the protesters' demands, which include an investigation into alleged police excesses and amnesty for around 5,000 detained protesters.