Last Updated on 2023/12/11
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Hong Kong Election Sees Historic Low Turnout Amid ‘Patriots Only’ Policy.
27.5% Turnout Reflects Growing Discontent with Electoral Process. Beijing’s Grip Tightens: Hong Kong District Elections Lack Democratic Spark.
In the recent district election in Hong Kong, characterized by a “patriots only” policy, the city witnessed a historic low in voter turnout, with only 27.5% of eligible voters casting their ballots. This marked a significant decline from previous elections, highlighting the community’s growing disillusionment with a process perceived as undemocratic.
Under the impact of the national security law imposed by Beijing, which has been instrumental in suppressing dissent, and alterations to the electoral system designed to exclude democrats and other liberal candidates, public sentiment has markedly shifted. Lemon Wong, a democrat still participating in local politics, captured this sentiment, noting a widespread feeling of the election’s lack of significance, even among pro-establishment supporters who questioned the need to vote in such a predetermined process.
This election’s turnout starkly contrasts with the 71% turnout in 2019, during the height of pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong, which led to a sweeping victory for the democratic camp. In the current election, the number of directly elected seats was drastically reduced by nearly 80%, and candidates had to pass through national security background checks and gain endorsements from pro-government committees, leading to the disqualification of several pro-democracy, moderate, and even some pro-Beijing figures.
Technical issues further marred the election, with an electronic poll register system failure necessitating a switch to manual voting and an extension of polling times by 90 minutes. The electoral commission insisted that this extension was not related to the low turnout rate.
Security measures were notably stringent, with over ten thousand police officers deployed. At least six individuals were arrested for offenses such as urging invalid voting or inciting disruption of the polls, as stated by the police and the city’s anti-corruption authority.
The election was criticized by the League of Social Democrats, whose members were arrested before a planned protest. They labeled the election a “birdcage election” and a regression in electoral and democratic rights. The police justified these arrests as preventative measures against poll disruption.
Amidst this backdrop, Hong Kong’s leader, John Lee, staunchly defended the election’s legitimacy, emphasizing its role in ensuring stability in Hong Kong since its return from British to Chinese rule in 1997. He argued that the 2019 election was exploited to undermine governance and threaten national security. While Western governments have critiqued Hong Kong’s authoritarian shift under the national security law, China maintains that these measures have restored stability to the financial hub following the 2019 pro-democracy protests.
Topics: Hong Kong district election low turnout, patriots only election impact in Hong Kong, Beijing’s national security law and Hong Kong elections, democratic participation decline in Hong Kong, effects of electoral system overhaul in Hong Kong, public sentiment on Hong Kong’s political future, voter disengagement in Hong Kong politics, pro-democracy challenges in Hong Kong’s election, Hong Kong’s changing political landscape post-2019 protests, future of democracy under Hong Kong’s national security law.