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Beijing defends HK’s ‘patriots only’ polls amid low turnout

Beijing defends HK’s ‘patriots only’ polls amid low turnout, the vie

Pro-Beijing candidates have swept Hong Kong’s “patriots only” polls, the first elections held after electoral reforms that essentially ruled out the participation of most of the pro-democracy opposition candidates in the Special Administrative Region.

The central government in Beijing hailed Sunday’s polls and released a detailed white paper on Monday defending its political governance of Hong Kong.

Its critics in Hong Kong, however, pointed to the record low turnout — the lowest in any election since the 1997 handover — as underlining public disenchantment with the new electoral process. In March, Beijing passed legislation that significantly reduced the share of directly elected representatives in Hong Kong’s Legislative Council, from 50% to 22%, with the rest nominated, and also introduced a candidate eligibility review committee to screen those running for office.

Despite a range of measures aimed at boosting turnout, including making public transportation free on Sunday, only 30.20% of registered voters cast their vote, down from 58.28% in the last LegCo election in 2016.

A provisional count of the total number of voters showed a steep fall of more than 60%, down from 2.2 million five years ago to 1.35 million voters on Sunday.

Chief Executive Carrie Lam played down the low turnout saying the fact that 1.35 million voted showed the election “had the support of many citizens”. She also welcomed Beijing’s “white paper” on Hong Kong’s democratic system, which defended its overhaul of the electoral process arguing that there were no elections under British colonial rule prior to 1997 and that “one country” needed to take precedence over “two systems”, referring to the formula that gave Hong Kong political freedoms that people are denied on the mainland.

“One Country is the prerequisite and basis for the Two Systems, and the Two Systems are subordinate to and derive from One Country,” the white paper said, adding that “Hong Kong governed by the patriots of Hong Kong is essential to the One Country, Two Systems principle, and quintessential to democracy in the region.”

“The region must be governed by patriots and patriots only,” the paper said. “No instigator of disorder should be allowed into the governing body of the HKSAR, and resolute measures must be taken to guard the region’s administration against destabilising influences and the forces behind them.”

Ms. Lam echoed that message in a meeting with reporters on Monday, saying that “the most important basis for enhancing Hong Kong’s electoral system is to ensure ‘patriots administering Hong Kong’ because Hong Kong is an inalienable part of the People’s Republic of China.”

“If our electoral system were to have a loophole that would allow people who were unpatriotic, who actually wanted to use elections to go into Hong Kong’s political structure and then undermine national security, or even overturn the Government and collude with foreign forces and so on,” she said, “it would not be in the interest of the people of Hong Kong and, in fact, the people of the country.”

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