On Dec. 19, Hong Kong held its Legislative Council (LegCo) election. Pro-CCP candidates swept the first-ever election held in the city under the control of Beijing.
The election only allowed candidates approved by the communist regime. It saw a record low turnout with just 30.2 percent of eligible voters casting their ballots. Prior to this election, the lowest voter turnout in Hong Kong’s history since the city was handed over to China by Great Britain in 1997 was in the 2000 legislative election when the turnout was 43.6 percent.
In the 2016 and 2012 LegCo elections, voter turnout was more than 50 percent. The District Council election held in late 2019 when the Hong Kong protests were at their peak had seen a more than 70 percent voter turnout and ended up with pro-democracy candidates winning by a landslide. Roughly two percent of the votes cast in the recent LegCo election were deemed invalid, which is also a record high.
Carrie Lam, the Chief Executive of Hong Kong, acknowledged that the turnout was low but refused to provide any explanation for it.
“For registered voters, deciding whether they want to exercise their voting rights in a particular election is entirely a matter for themselves… In this election, 1.35 million voters cast their votes. They did not just return candidates of their choice to LegCo, and I think it was also because of their support for the improved electoral system,” Lam stated.
The thumping win secured by the pro-CCP candidates in this election has largely to do with the new rules set by China’s National People’s Congress (NPC) last March. According to the new laws, the number of lawmakers directly elected decreased from 35 to 20 even though the number of seats at the legislature rose from 70 to 90.
Many of the candidates were appointed by pro-CCP bodies. Moreover, all candidates were vetted by a pro-Beijing committee before they competed in the election. These decisions had attracted widespread criticism from many quarters, including the Democratic Party, the city’s largest pro-democracy party, which did not field a single candidate in the election for the first time since the British handover. Many popular pro-democracy candidates are either in prison or have fled Hong Kong to escape Beijing’s clutches.
“Everything happened so fast… One year later, there are hardly any real democrats left. They are either in jail or in exile… This is the reason we must stick to our principles and not forget our history, especially when many leading democrats sacrificed their freedom and are now behind bars,” 25-year-old Sunny Cheung, an activist who is seeking asylum in the United States to avoid prosecution, told The Epoch Times.
In a joint statement on Dec. 20, the governments of the United States, United Kingdom, New Zealand, Canada, and Australia expressed “grave concern” over the erosion of “democratic elements” in Hong Kong’s electoral system. The overhaul of the election system earlier this year eliminated “any meaningful” political opposition.
“Protecting space for peaceful alternative views is the most effective way to ensure the stability and prosperity of Hong Kong. We urge the People’s Republic of China to act in accordance with its international obligations to respect protected rights and fundamental freedoms in Hong Kong, including those guaranteed under the Sino-British Joint Declaration,” the joint statement said.