Hong Kong has registered the lowest turnout in the first ‘Patriots Only’ election

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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.”

Beijing's election law for new 'patriot' Hong Kong restricts opposition
The referendum comes two years after pro-democracy, anti-government protests rocked Hong Kong for months, and more than a year after the introduction of a national security law banning secession, sabotage and cooperation with foreign powers. Completely changed the social and political landscape of the city.
This is the city’s first legislative election since drastic new electoral reforms were passed in March. These changes gave the government more test powers, dramatically reduced the ability of the public to vote directly for candidates, and allowed only “patriots” to be screened by the government.

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.

A banner outside a polling station during the December 19 by-elections in Hong Kong.

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 Hong Kong Wall Street Journal has warned that legal action will be taken against the election editorial
Sunday’s low turnout was completely different from 2019, with nearly 3 million people 71.2% of the vote voting in the district council election, which gave the pro-democracy camp a landslide victory.

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.

Under the National Security Act and the repression of the city of Beijing, all political opposition was wiped out. Most opposition leaders and former pro-democracy lawmakers are now in jail or deported, while most councilors who won in 2019 have resigned, left Hong Kong or been disqualified by the government.

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.”

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