Hong Kong election sees lowest-ever turnout with dissent banned

Hong Kong metropolis chief John Lee (centre L) stated this 12 months’s election was ‘the final piece of the puzzle to implement the precept of patriots ruling Hong Kong’ (ISAAC LAWRENCE)

Hong Kong’s first district elections for “patriots” noticed a turnout of 27.5 p.c, the federal government stated Monday, a file low for a race that had shut out all opposition candidates.

The town final held district council elections on the peak of giant, typically violent, pro-democracy protests in 2019, recording a historic-high 71 p.c turnout that delivered a landslide victory for the democracy camp.

However a clampdown on dissent, aided by a sweeping nationwide safety regulation imposed by Beijing in 2020, has included a drive by authorities to weed out from public workplace anybody deemed politically disloyal after the protests.

Police acted swiftly to quash any signal of dissent on Sunday, arresting at the very least six folks in an train that officers stated drew simply shy of 1.2 million out of 4.3 million registered electors to the polls for a remaining turnout of 27.54 p.c.

The earlier lowest turnout because the metropolis’s handover to China was 35.82 p.c in 1999.

Beijing’s high workplace overseeing Hong Kong congratulated town on Monday for holding an election that “uplifted the spirit and consolidated consensus”, including that the vote “injected sturdy momentum” for town’s growth.

Metropolis chief John Lee had stated that this 12 months’s election was “the final piece of the puzzle to implement the precept of patriots administering Hong Kong”.

“Any longer, the district councils would now not be what they have been up to now — which was a platform to destruct and reject the federal government’s administration, to advertise Hong Kong independence and to hazard nationwide safety,” Lee stated after he solid his poll on Sunday.

– ‘Massively humiliating’ –

John Burns, an emeritus professor on the College of Hong Kong, stated the record-low turnout could “reveal residents’ widespread scepticism” about whether or not the district councils may mirror their views.

“The general public turned its again on the polls, successfully saying ‘the polls have little to do with us’,” Burns advised AFP, including that the end result confirmed the native authorities’s “weak mobilisational capability”.

Kenneth Chan, a political scientist on the Baptist College of Hong Kong, stated the turnout was “vastly humiliating” for the authorities.

Professional-Beijing political heavyweight Tam Yiu-chung stated on Monday the turnout was “not dangerous” given the brand new system, including that younger folks have been much less desirous to vote.

Some constituents believed that “society is steady and patriots are in cost, so it is no massive deal (to not vote)”, Tam stated on a radio programme.

The variety of seats that might be instantly elected was slashed from 462 to 88 in accordance with new guidelines introduced in Might, with the opposite 382 seats managed by town chief, authorities loyalists and rural landlords.

Candidates have been additionally required to hunt nominations from three government-appointed committees, which successfully shut out all pro-democracy events.

Greater than 70 p.c of the candidates picked to run for the election have been themselves members of the nominating committees.

European Union spokesperson for overseas affairs and safety coverage, Nabila Massrali, stated on Monday the revamped electoral system “severely weakens” Hong Kong folks’s potential to decide on their representatives.

The EU “calls on the authorities to revive confidence within the democratic course of”, Massrali stated in an announcement.

Police deployed in drive on Sunday and three of the six folks arrested have been members of the League of Social Democrats (LSD), one of many metropolis’s final remaining opposition teams.

Their case was taken up by Hong Kong’s anti-graft company, which stated the trio was suspected of “inciting others to not vote”.

Veteran activist Koo Sze-yiu, 77, was denied bail on Monday after he was charged with “making an attempt or getting ready to do an act with seditious intention”.

The three LSD activists and Koo had stated they deliberate to stage protests however have been all arrested earlier than they may present up.

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