Dec 20, 2021 - World

Record low turnout for Hong Kong "patriots only" election

Kenneth Fok Kai-kong (L4) celebrates with wife Guo Jingjing (L3), former Olympic diving champion, after winning in the Legislative Council General Election on December 20, 2021 in Hong Kong, China.

Kenneth Fok Kai-kong (second from right) celebrates with his wife, Guo Jingjing, a former Olympic diving champion, and others after winning the Sports, Performing Arts, Culture and Publication Constituency seat at the 2021 Legislative Council General Election in Hong Kong on Dec. 20. Photo: VCG/VCG via Getty Images

Pro-Beijing candidates claimed victory in Hong Kong's Legislative Council (LegCo) election under the new "patriots only" system, per Reuters.

Why it matters: This was the first LegCo since Beijing lawmakers passed a sweeping law to ensure only "patriotic" figures can run for positions of power — which U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken called a "denial of democracy."

  • Voter turnout was the lowest on record — 30.2%, the BBC notes.
  • All candidates running to be members of the electoral college were vetted by China's government.

What they're saying: Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam acknowledged at a news conference Monday the low voter turnout, but said she couldn't outline the "specifics" of this, according to Reuters.

  • "But 1.35 million coming out to vote — it cannot be said that it was not an ... election that did not get a lot of support from citizens," Lam added.
  • Kenneth Chan, a political scientist at Hong Kong's Baptist University, told AFP the turnout was "hugely embarrassing" for the government.

In a joint statement, Blinken and his counterparts from Australia, Canada, New Zealand and the U.K., expressed their "grave concern" over the election outcome.

  • "Since handover, candidates with diverse political views have contested elections in Hong Kong. Yesterday’s election has reversed this trend. The overhaul of Hong Kong’s electoral system introduced earlier this year reduced the number of directly elected seats and established a new vetting process to severely restrict the choice of candidates on the ballot paper."
  • "These changes eliminated any meaningful political opposition. Meanwhile, many of the city’s opposition politicians ... remain in prison pending trial, with others in exile overseas."
  • "We urge the People’s Republic of China to act in accordance with its international obligations to respect protected rights and fundamental freedoms in Hong Kong."
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