Hong Kong voters have opened a “Pandora’s box” that may ultimately put the city’s autonomy at risk by handing a landslide victory to the pro-democracy camp in the district council election, an influential mainland commentator has warned. Ren Yi, a graduate from Harvard University’s John Kennedy School of Government, wrote that Hong Kong would “pay the price of arrogance” if the city continues to push for a “decoupling” from the mainland. Ren warned that the more the city “refuses to accept [or] challenges China’s sovereignty and political order … the less political power it will enjoy and increase the chance that it could even lose its autonomy”. He said that this loss of autonomy could “in theory” happen before 2047 – the 50th anniversary of the handover from British rule. Beijing has pledged to maintain the city’s “capitalist system and way of life” for this period of time under the terms of the handover. But some analysts have warned that anything Beijing perceives as a challenge to its sovereignty will trigger a response. Ren, who has more than a million followers online and is regarded as a highly influential among mainland officials because of his education and family background, argued that if the city’s people embraced Chinese patriotism then it could enjoy greater autonomy and its capitalist system may be preserved until 2047. But, he warned, Sunday’s vote marked a “watershed” and indicated that the people had chosen to follow a “dangerous path that will usher in historic changes”. Hong Kong’s status as trade hub based on political stability, EU figures warn He continued: “Looking ahead … radical young people will take the lead in shaping Hong Kong’s political landscape, and violence will be seen as ‘routine’ and become a standard feature of political life in Hong Kong.” The city’s pro-establishment camp suffered a crushing defeat in the elections, losing control of 17 out of the 18 district councils. The pan-democrat bloc won 347 of the 452 seats up for grabs in the election, with independents – many of them pro-democracy – winning 45 seats. The pro-Beijing politicians only took 60 seats. Ren – the grandson of Ren Zhongyi, a reformer who ran Guangdong, the province which borders Hong Kong, in the 1980s – has written a series of analyses of the Hong Kong elections under the pen name Chairman Rabbit. His views on Hong Kong are generally perceived to be in line with Beijing’s position, which has hardened in recent months as the protests drag on. Communist Party elites held a closed-door meeting in Beijing in October and issued a policy statement which called for a strengthening of control over Hong Kong especially on national security issues. The statement also said the central government would push to strengthen patriotic education and improve the accountability of the city’s chief executive and principal officials. Zhu Jie, a Hong Kong affairs specialist at Wuhan University, said the “one country, two systems” framework was underpinned by the fact that Hong Kong is part of China and the city’s autonomy cannot challenge its sovereignty. What’s next for Hong Kong protesters? “No matter to what extent Beijing can grant Hong Kong high autonomy, it will not allow the city to become an anti-China base,” said Zhu. “I don’t think Beijing will end Hong Kong’s high degree of autonomy before 2047 as Beijing has solemnly pledged that [the] system would not be changed for 50 years.” Zhang Jian, a Hong Kong affairs expert with the Shanghai Institute for International Studies, echoed Zhu’s views and said Beijing would exercise its powers stipulated in the Basic Law, Hong Kong’s mini-constitution, strengthen its control and keep the city on the leash but would not abruptly end its autonomous power. “Preserving the uniqueness of Hong Kong’s political and financial systems is of vital interest to China, and this means Beijing wouldn’t break its promises about 2047 easily,” said Zhang.