For the first time since China’s review of the electoral process in May, elections for the Legislative Council (LegCo), the parliament, will be held in Hong Kong on Sunday. This amendment, known in Hong Kong as the Election Improvement Act, limited the number of elected seats globally and established that only “patriots” could stand for parliamentary elections.
All Hong Kong residents of voting age will be able to vote on Sunday. That is about 4.5 million out of 7.5 million people. However, since the amendment, only 20 of the 90 seats qualified for the general election, up from 35 of the 70, so the number of seats has increased, while the number of globally elected representatives has decreased. The so-called 1,500-member pro-China Electoral Commission appoints another 40 seats to the LegCo. The remaining 30 seats will go to representatives of the sectors, who also support the People’s Republic.
Candidates must show ‘patriotism’
Prior to the revision, the legislature consisted of six local council members, 35 elected deputies at large and 29 sector representatives. Now, the Electoral Commission not only determines who will be the new head of government, but also who can run for a seat in Parliament. All 153 candidates had to show political loyalty and “patriotism”. This means that pro-democracy activists could not run for office or surrendered if they did not quit politics, on the run or in prison under the strict security law passed in 2020.
In May, Hong Kong’s parliament approved the biggest electoral change in a long time, aimed at perpetuating China’s power. This was the most comprehensive reform of the city’s electoral system since 1997, when the United Kingdom handed Hong Kong over to the Communist People’s Republic. The United States condemned the move. US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken described the review as “a direct attack on the autonomy promised to the people of Hong Kong under the 1984 Sino-British Joint Declaration”, which outlined plans as of July 1, 1997.
Beijing sees a brighter future: the review excludes anti-Chinese elements, prevents pro-democracy protests as happened in 2019, and speeds up decision-making at LegCo. Hong Kong’s largest pro-democracy party has previously decided to boycott the Lekou elections. No party member registered for elections before the October deadline.
The voter turnout will be a measure of Hong Kong residents’ support for the new electoral system. The city’s current head of government, Carrie Lam, has repeatedly urged Hong Kong residents to vote, but at the same time said low turnout would mean nothing. “When the government does things right and its credibility is strong, voter turnout is lower because people don’t really feel the need to elect new representatives,” she said. Police plan to deploy more than 10,000 officers on the streets of Hong Kong on Sunday.
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