The ‘Patriots Only’ Election in Hong Kong Will Erode the City’s Liberties

In an election that had been essentially predetermined, a record low number of voters cast their ballots Sunday. With just a little over a 30% voter turnoutThe absence of the people of Hong Kong made their will known.

The low turnout is a rejection of the massive transformation Beijing has been bringing to the semi-autonomous Chinese city of Hong Kong. In 2020, Beijing established the National Security Law. In 2021, it introduced election reforms that reduced the number of directly elected members of Hong Kong’s Legislative Council.

The election is a reminder about how far Hong Kong has fallen in relation to its once bright democratic future.

Two years ago, Hongkongers were voting in the exact opposite. The election to choose district councilors saw a record high turnout of over 70% and handed the pro-democracy camp majorities in all but one of the city’s 18 districts.

There was not even a prodemocracy ticket this time. Those who were not disqualified or imprisoned in that camp resigned in protest last year, and many fled abroad. Multiple political groups have disbanded in fear of being charged under the National Security Law. The remaining ones refused to allow rigged elections to be legitimized by fielding candidates.

The Chinese regime and its puppets in Hong Kong have put substantial propaganda effort toward presenting Sunday’s election and its results as legitimate. However, their disdain for democracy is evident in the extensive efforts they made to rig it.

Nathan Law, an exiled Hong Kong leader in pro-democracy, wrote in The New York Times

“The Chinese government wants this election to appear to be successful, as Beijing needs the facade of Hong Kong becoming more ‘democratic.’ If the citizens of Hong Kong skip the vote, it would undermine the election’s legitimacy.”

That’s exactly what happened.

Hongkongers were dismayed by electoral reforms instituted by the National People’s Congress of the People’s Republic of China. The new regulations required that all candidates must be approved by a committee composed of Beijing loyalists.

It also changed the structure and composition of the Legislative Council, making it less democratic. The new rules increased the number 70 to 90 seats and decreased the number 35 to 20 directly elected seats. This means that less than one-fourth of legislators could be selected by the city’s residents.

In the process, they eliminated the five seats appointed by the democratically elected district councils and added 40 seats to be chosen directly by the same safely pro-Beijing Election Committee that selects the city’s chief executive.

After going to great lengths to ensure Sunday’s election will reflect Beijing’s interest rather than that of the people of Hong Kong, the government is now trying to convince the world that the election is legitimate. The facts are clear.

Hong Kong has never enjoyed full democracy. But before the push by Beijing over the last few years to reign in Hong Kong’s liberal institutions, it was making progress and held out hope for the universal suffrage China once promised.

Sunday’s so-called patriots only election is a further retreat from that liberal democratic future. The 2022 election for chief executive is designed to reflect even less the will of Hong Kong’s people.

The rigged Legislative Council election handed the only option on the ticket—candidates representing Beijing’s interests—a victory. The election was not supported by most Hongkongers.

The desire for good governance is the lifeblood running through the veins of the Hong Kong people, and this election demonstrated that even when candidates are imposed on a citizenry by force, that force is unable to change people’s minds about the legitimacy of their authority.

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