According to a government press release, the provisional turnout was 30.2% at the end of the referendum – much lower than the previous record of 43.6% in 2000. In the last five years, 58% of the vote was cast in the Assembly elections.
In an effort to increase turnout, the city offered free public transportation throughout the day – but instead of going to the polls, many Hong Kongers seemed to take free trains and buses to walkways and camps.
The results, announced Monday morning, saw pro-establishment candidates claiming all 20 seats in the available geographical constituencies. None of the city’s major pro-democracy parties fielded candidates.
Mayor Gary Lam thanked voters Sunday night, saying “this is an important election to implement the policy of ‘patriots governing Hong Kong’, following the improvement of the electoral system.”
Under the previous system, half of the 70-member assembly was directly elected by the people, while the other half was generally elected by pro-China trade and industry organizations.
The new reforms expanded the legislature to 90 seats – but most of these are controlled by pro-Beijing, government-appointed panel and trade and industry organizations. Currently, only 20 seats are directly elected by the people – the lowest number since Hong Kong was handed over to Chinese rule in 1997.
Many Hong Kong activists fleeing abroad called on voters to boycott the election ahead of Sunday, arguing it was a fraudulent election – echoed by criticism from several rights groups and international observers.
Former lawmakers Nathan Law and Ted Hui, both self-exiled, were among those who supported the boycott. Hong Kong authorities subsequently issued an arrest warrant against them.
In Lam’s statement on Sunday night, he argued that order and good “governance” needed a new electoral system, and that in previous elections, “anti-China forces entered the political system … confusing the legislature.”
The 2019 election took place several months into the protest movement, after millions of strong rallies and street clashes between protesters and police. At the time, the referendum was designed to be a referendum on protests.
At a news conference on Monday morning, Lam acknowledged that Sunday’s turnout was low – but argued that was not a bad thing.
Lam said the 2019 high turnout was “based on polarization”. “There was a high turnout in the (2019) election due to difficulties in Hong Kong,” he added. “This is not something we should be proud of.”