Hong Kong: LegCo vote after electoral overhaulon December 19, 2021 at 2:57 pm

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Only candidates deemed to be “patriots” by Beijing can stand in the legislative council election.

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Voting has ended in Hong Kong’s legislative council election, the first such poll since China made sweeping reforms to the process.

In March, officials approved a controversial “patriots” resolution which drastically cut democratic representation and allowed Beijing to vet every candidate.

Leaders in Hong Kong have insisted the change is needed to ensure stability.

But critics say it has weakened democracy in the city.

It comes after China introduced a national security law, making it easier to punish pro-democracy protesters following massive demonstrations in the territory back in 2019.

Polls opened at 08:30 local time (00:30 GMT) and closed at 22:30. Full results are not expected until Monday.

Figures on Sunday suggested turnout was lower than in previous elections. According to the South China Morning Post, one hour before polls closed about 29% of the electorate had voted, compared with 53% in the 2016 poll.

The Legislative Council, widely known as LegCo, is a powerful body that makes and amends laws in Hong Kong.

Only 20 of the 90 legislative seats will be directly elected, with 40 picked by the pro-Beijing Election Committee and 30 chosen by special interest groups like business and trade – which also historically lean towards Beijing.

Ahead of the election government officials urged the city’s 4.5 million registered voters to take part, sending out mass texts on Saturday to encourage a higher turnout.

Starry Lee, head of the largest pro-Beijing party DAB, told reporters on Sunday that “polling stations’ feedback showed that not many people are voting” and encouraged the electorate to cast their ballots.

But one woman, an accountant in her 20s, told AFP news agency she had no plans to take part. “My vote won’t mean anything because ultimately it’s Beijing’s people winning,” she said.

People queue to vote at a Hong Kong polling station

Image source, Reuters

Many opposition or pro-democracy figures in Hong Kong have been jailed, shut out from the vote, or have gone into exile. In May, high-profile activist Joshua Wong was sentenced to 10 months in jail for taking part in an unauthorised vigil to mark the 1989 Tiananmen Square crackdown.

“People do not want to vote for a rubber-stamp chamber and pretend everything is all right,” tweeted Nathan Law, a former legislator who lives in the UK and is wanted by Hong Kong authorities.

Some activists have urged people to boycott the election or to leave their ballots blank as a protest. While casting a blank vote is legal, it is now against the law to incite anyone to do so, or to encourage them not to vote.

More than 10,000 police officers were on the streets of Hong Kong on Sunday to “ensure a smooth process”, police chief Raymond Siu said.

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