Police deployed at polling stations as Hong Kong votes in overhauled ‘patriots’ election

Hong Kong’s first “patriots-only” legislative elections have seen sluggish early turnout across the city, as thousands of police officers were deployed to monitor the polling stations.

Sunday’s polls, which saw 153 candidates compete for 90 seats, are the first to be held after Beijing overhauled the city’s electoral processes earlier this year, reducing the ratio of directly-elected seats and introducing a two-tiered candidate vetting process by national security police and officials to ensure only “patriots” can administer the city.

The voter turnout averaged about 6% for all 10 geographical constituencies, two hours after the polls opened. The geographical constituencies make up the 20 directly elected seats available in the legislature.

Chief executive Carrie Lam told reporters after casting her vote that neither Beijing nor the local government have set targets for the voter turnout rate. Instead, Lam said her target was for the elections to be as efficient as possible.

The polls were open from 8:30 am to 10:30 pm, local time. Chairman of the Electoral Affairs Commission Barnabas Fung said he hoped results of the election committee polls would be released by late Sunday evening, and for the results of the directly elected seats to be released by noon on Monday.

Over 10,000 officers were deployed across the city to “ensure a smooth process,” according to police chief Raymond Siu.

Carrie Lam
Chief Executive of Hong Kong Carrie Lam arrives at the polling station to vote in the 2021 legislative council general election. Photograph: Alex Chan Tsz Yuk/SOPA Images/REX/Shutterstock

Hongkongers were given free public transport rides on Sunday as part of the government’s push to encourage residents to vote. Polling stations were also set up at checkpoints at the city’s borders with mainland China to allow Hongkongers living on the mainland to cast a vote.

The city’s number two official John Lee called on Hongkongers to vote, saying candidates who have been banned from running for failing the “patriots” criteria will try to thwart the elections.

“People who have been excluded under the principles of patriots administering Hong Kong will be trying their best to make today’s election will not be a success. We have to make sure that they will not succeed,” Lee told reporters after casting his vote. He added that the candidates were “broadly representative” of Hong Kong’s society.

Others said they would not be voting, expressing anger at the changes that some said had turned the poll into a “selection” and the legislature into a “puppet”.

“Refusing to vote is apparently the only way for us to express our grievances,” said Peter, 21, a university student.

Unlike previous polls, pro-democracy candidates are largely absent, having declined to run, gone into exile or been jailed. Some overseas activists and foreign governments, including the United States, say the electoral changes have reduced democratic representation in the city.

Only four of the 35 candidates running for the 20 directly elected seats mentioned “democracy” or “universal suffrage” in their campaigns. The new system has reduced the proportion of legislators Hongkongers could directly elect from 53% to 22%.

The election rollout also saw early hiccups, with an online service to inform the public of expected queueing times at polling stations offline due to “excessive usage” an hour after the polls opened, according to a spokesperson for the Registration and Electoral Office.

With agencies

The Guardian

Related posts

Leave a Comment