Candidates loyal to the Chinese Communist Party won a landslide victory in Hong Kong’s parliamentary elections after pro-democracy activists were jailed and authorities were given the power to exclude those deemed unsuitable for office.
Candidates loyal to Beijing won the majority of seats in Sunday’s election after laws were changed to ensure that only pro-Beijing “patriots” could rule the city.
Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam told a press conference on Monday that she was “happy” with the election despite a turnout of 30.2%, the lowest since the British surrendered Hong Kong to China in 1997.
She said the number of registered voters reached 92.5%, a record compared to the 2012 and 2016 elections, when around 70% of voters registered.
“For registered voters, deciding whether they want to exercise their right to vote in a particular election is a matter of themselves,” she said.
“In this election, 1.35 million voters voted. They didn’t just send whatever candidates they wanted to LegCo, and I think it was also because of their support for improving the electoral system, ”Lam said, referring to the city’s Legislative Council.
Under the new laws, the number of directly elected legislators has increased from 35 to 20, even as the legislature has grown from 70 to 90 seats. Most lawmakers have been appointed by largely pro-Beijing bodies, ensuring they constitute the majority of the legislature.
All the candidates were also reviewed by a largely pro-Beijing committee before they could be nominated.
Lam said that even though there was a high turnout based on “bad politics,” such as political polarization during the time of political turmoil in 2019, it is “not something we should be happy about. ‘to have “.
Starry Lee, an elected candidate for the pro-Beijing legislative council of the Democratic Alliance for the Improvement and Progress of Hong Kong, said the 30% turnout was in line with “general public expectations.”
“As I mentioned before, this is a new system, it is a system that we call the Patriots administering Hong Kong,” Lee said.
“This is different from the previous one, so you can’t compare directly. And I think with the new system people need some time to get used to it. “
The opposition camp criticized the elections, as the largest pro-democracy party, the Democratic Party, failed to field a candidate for the first time since the 1997 transfer.
Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian said there were “several reasons” for the decline in voter turnout.
“It is not only the impact of the pandemic, but also the disruption and sabotage of anti-Chinese elements in Hong Kong and outside forces,” Zhao said at a daily briefing.
Some pro-democracy activists abroad, including London-based Nathan Law, called for a boycott of the vote, saying the elections were undemocratic. Under the new election laws, incitement to boycott the ballot or cast invalid votes could be punishable by up to three years in prison and a fine of HK $ 200,000. ($ 26,500).
Lam said she expects working with the 90 lawmakers to be “very exciting” because they have different opinions on many social issues.
Lam was due to travel to Beijing later Monday as part of a reporting trip, which she said should give Beijing a full account of the latest political and economic situation in Hong Kong.
“I expect to cover a wide range of issues on this particular service visit because thanks to two very decisive acts by central authorities, Hong Kong is now back on track ‘of one country, two systems'” , she said.