Hong Kong election results:Legislative Assembly vote receives lowest e…

Hong Kong election results:Legislative Assembly vote receives lowest e…

Ninety legislators were to be elected, with the public voting for just 20 of them. Forty others were chosen by a 1448-member pro-Beijing committee, while the remaining 30 were handpicked by specialized groups. Voter turnout among the Election Committee was 98.5 per cent, while the specialized groups had a collective rate of 32.2 per cent.

Candidates celebrate on stage after polling stations closed in Hong Kong on Sunday evening.Credit:Getty Images

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

When asked if her political party lacked a public mandate given the low turnout, Starry Lee, the head of the pro-Beijing Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong (DAB) that won half of the directly elected seats, said the electoral revamp would enhance governance.

“I do not believe this [the low turnout] is directly related to citizens not agreeing with this electoral system. I believe it needs some time for people to get alternation to this system,” she said.

The government had made public transport free to encourage voters to the ballot box. Instead, the transport system was flooded with citizens making leisure trips around the city, with attractions such as Ocean Park and Disneyland overwhelmed with visitors.

The city had earlier postponed the vote, citing COVID-19 restrictions, halting the opposition’s growing success at the ballot box. Hong Kong’s past legislative election in 2016 gave the pro-democracy camp its greatest-ever proportion of seats in the chamber after a record turnout. They followed that up with a landslide victory at the 2019 District Council elections, after that year’s mass anti-government protests.

Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam had denied that the vote was an “all-same-unit” election, saying the 153 candidates standing were from “different political backgrounds”. Her government wanted citizens to validate Beijing’s new system by getting enough people to participate and avoiding the humiliating rebuke of a low turnout.

Ahead of the surveys, authorities arrested 10 people for inciting others to cast blank votes, and issued arrest warrants for self-exiled former legislator Ted Hui, who now lives in Adelaide, Australia, and ex-district councillor Yau Man-chun for the same crime.

Ted Hui, a former Hong Kong pro- democracy legislator, is now in exile in Australia.Credit:Eamon Gallagher

On Saturday, the city’s anti-corruption agency said it had issued warrants for another five people, including former district councillor Lee Hin-long, on the same grounds. All five had left Hong Kong, it said.

“We have the responsibility to explain the characteristics of Hong Kong’s improved electoral system and encourage every registered voter to exercise their civil rights,” Lam told the Communist Party-backed Global Times newspaper on December 7. She argued that low turnout could indicate satisfaction with the government.

“consequently, I think the turnout rate does not average anything,” she said.

The opposition once hoped to ride the momentum of its unheard of landslide victory in the 2019 District Council elections to take control of the legislative chamber. But after the vote was postponed, the central government seized the chance to formally end China’s only experiment with open elections.

Election workers count votes at a polling stop in Hong Kong after the legislative election on Sunday.Credit:AP

In March, Beijing overhauled the body that picks the city’s leader to give it already greater sway, including the strength to directly elect 40 Legislative Assembly members. In May, the city’s legislature approved a China-drafted plan to create a review committee to vet all candidates for elected office. National security officials now determine whether candidates can uphold local laws and respect the Communist Party.


Both moves came after extensive street protests against the government, which were supported by the city’s pro-democracy opposition politicians.

“The Chinese government has given up on opposition parties, as it thinks they have not been helpful but unhealthy to Hong Kong,” said Ivan Choy, a senior lecturer in politics at the Chinese University of Hong Kong. Beijing wants the government and new legislature to work together to pass bills easily and “without opposition” he additional.

While only one in three residents sustain Lam, according to opinion surveys, she is considered the front-runner in the March 27 vote for the city’s next chief executive. That’s because Lam is elected by the revamped committee of Communist Party loyalists, who represent just 0.02 per cent of the city’s population.

In the Sunday commentary, Xinhua said voters showed a “cold response to incitation to cast blank or invalid ballots,” which indicated they were rejecting forces that sought to undermine China.

“Hong Kong voters have displayed their recognition of the new electoral system featuring general representation, political inclusiveness, balanced participation, and fair competition,” it said. December 19 was “a day when the general masses of Hong Kong went to the surveys to make the ‘Pearl of the Orient’ shine more brightly.”

Bloomberg, Reuters

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