Pro-Beijing ‘Patriots’ Sweep Hong Kong Election with Record Low Turnout

Photo credit: EPA

The Pro-Beijing Party swept the controversial Hong Kong “patriots-only” Legislative Council election, which critics have labeled as undemocratic. The election had a record low turnout. 

Only 32 percent came out for the election, which is approximately half of the voter response of the previous poll, in 2016. Pro-democracy activists have said that the extremely low turnout is a response to China’s imposition of a broad new national security law, as well as dramatic electoral changes, that are meant to clamp down on Hong Kong’s freedoms and place the city further under China’s authoritarian rule. 

Almost all of the seats up for election were taken by pro-Beijing candidates. 

Beijing and its Hong Kong winners are trying to downplay the low turnout, saying that 1.3 million people voted and that therefore it had support from its citizens. 

But political analysts and experts aren’t buying the P.R. tactic, stating that the turnout is a barometer of legitimacy. They point to the fact that pro-democracy candidates were nearly completely absent, and that there were such recent crackdowns recently, some of which included the jailing of democrats who wanted to run for available seats.

Others were forced into exile, reports say. 

In March, officials approved the “patriots” resolution, which cut democratic representation significantly, and allowed China to vet each candidate who ran for elections. Pro-Beijing leaders within Hong Kong defend the policies by saying it’s for stability, but critics say it’s to weaken democracy even more. 

Foreign governments, human rights groups, and experts, and pro-democracy parties in Hong Kong have criticized the election. A joint statement from the G7 foreign ministers, as well as the high representatives from the United States, Canada, European Union, Britain, Australia, and New Zealand, detailed their “grave concern” for the rapid erosion of Hong Kong’s democracy, instigated by Beijing. 

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