Hong Kong

Hong Kong ‘patriots’-only election draws record low turnout

Reuters
Hong Kong ‘patriots’-only election draws record low turnout

ELECTIONS. Professional Power candidate Connie Lam So-wai and Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong (DAB) candidate Stanley Li Sai-Wing celebrate after winning in the Legislative Council election in Hong Kong, China, December 20, 2021.

Lam Yik/Reuters

The turnout of 30.2%, is almost half that of the previous legislative poll in 2016, with the latest results showing almost all of the seats being taken by pro-Beijing and pro-establishment candidates

HONG KONG – The turnout for an overhauled “patriots”-only legislative election in Hong Kong on Sunday, December 19, hit a record low, as government efforts and last-ditch campaigning failed to boost voter numbers amid a crackdown on the city’s freedoms by China.

The turnout of 30.2%, was almost half that of the previous legislative poll in 2016, with the latest results showing almost all of the seats being taken by pro-Beijing and pro-establishment candidates.

Some of these candidates cheered on stage at the central vote counting center and chanted “guaranteed win”.

The previous record low for a legislative election held after the city’s return from British to Chinese rule was 43.6% in 2000. Results for some seats are still pending.

The election – in which only candidates screened by the government as “patriots” could run – has been criticised by some activists, foreign governments and rights groups as regressive, while mainstream pro-democracy parties are not participating.

Turnout is a central issue, as observers consider it a barometer of legitimacy in an election where pro-democracy candidates are largely absent, and a crackdown under a China-imposed national security law has jailed scores of democrats who had originally wanted to run, and forced others into exile.

Under the electoral shake-up, the proportion of directly elected seats was reduced from around half to less than a quarter, or 20 seats.

Forty seats were selected by a committee stacked with Beijing loyalists, while the remaining 30 were filled by professional and business sectors such as finance and engineering, known as functional constituencies.

While some observers say the low turnout could undermine the new legislature’s legitimacy, Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam said in a statement that the 1.3 million or so ballots cast were a “show of support for the improved electoral system.” – Rappler.com