Those allowed to vote Sunday for the 1,500-seat Election Commission were mostly representatives of business, professional and religious communities, with pro-democracy candidates almost absent in the first election since Beijing overhauled Hong’s political system. Kong earlier this year.
“The overall goal of improving the electoral system is to ensure that the patriots run Hong Kong,” Carrie Lam, Hong Kong chief executive, said Sunday morning.
“I very much doubt that any other government or country will allow public election to its local legislature of people whose mission is to harm the national interest or national security. “
The territory and the former British colony was never a full-fledged democracy – the source of years of protests – but a noisy little opposition was tolerated after the city was handed over to Beijing in 1997, as China pledging to respect Hong Kong’s freedoms and way of life. life for at least 50 years.
After mass protests erupted in 2019, Beijing responded by imposing a broad-based national security law that led to dozens of arrests, the shutdown of some of the most prominent civil society groups in the city and the demise of Apple Daily, its most popular newspaper. . Pro-democracy politicians in public office have also resigned and some have gone into exile.
“Hong Kong people are completely cut off from electoral operations,” Nathan Law, a prominent democracy leader who fled to Britain last year, told AFP news agency.
“All the candidates for the election will become puppet shows under the full control of Beijing… with no real competition. “
Ted Hui, a former lawmaker who moved to Australia, said Hong Kong’s political system was now “a game of approval entirely controlled by Beijing.”
“It’s more than a managed democracy. It’s an autocracy that tries to pretend to be civilized, ”Hui said.
In 2016, some 246,440 Hong Kongers were allowed to select the electoral commission, according to the South China Morning Post.
That number has now been reduced to around 4,900, a tiny fraction of Hong Kong’s 7.5 million people.
Police said 6,000 officers were on standby to ensure there were no protests or disruptions.
“There is no more democracy in Hong Kong,” Keith Richburg, director of the Journalism and Media Studies Center at the University of Hong Kong, told Al Jazeera. “All of this is orchestrated by Beijing. It is to give the veneer, the fiction, that there is a certain popular participation, but all this is fixed in advance.
In December, the electoral committee will appoint 40 of the city’s 90 lawmakers – another 30 will be chosen by special interest groups and only 20 will be elected directly, up from half of the House previously. In 2022, he will choose Hong Kong’s next ruler from among the candidates approved by Beijing.
The vast majority of seats in Sunday’s vote were unchallenged, with 412 candidates vying for the remaining 364 seats. The rest will be installed automatically or chosen by special interest groups.
At the height of the protests two years ago, elections for district councils, the territory’s only majority-elected bodies, yielded a landslide victory for pro-democracy candidates.
The National Security Law imposed in June last year punishes anything Beijing considers to be subversion, secession, “terrorism” or collusion with foreign forces.
In May, the Chinese parliament changed Hong Kong’s electoral system, reducing democratic representation in institutions and introducing a vetting mechanism for election candidates and winners.