Hong Kong first legislative election

December 18, 2021

hong kong is set for first legislative election

Hong Kong is gearing up to hold its first Legislative Council (LegCo) election under a revamped “patriots only” system decreed by Beijing, after years of unprecedented turbulence since the last election in 2016.

The 2021 Hong Kong electoral changes were initiated by the National People’s Congress (NPC) on March 2021 to “amend electoral rules and improve the electoral system” of the Hong Kong’s Special Administrative Region (HKSAR) for its Chief Executive and the Legislative Council, in order to ensure a system in which “patriots” govern Hong Kong.

Voters will elect 90 lawmakers from candidates running in three constituencies but only 22% of the legislators will be directly elected by the public from geographical constituencies compared to 50% previously. 

Why is the election significant?

This is the first citywide election to be held under a national security law imposed by China that took effect in June 2020.

Critics say the law has been used to cur fundamental freedoms of speech, silence opposition, jail pro-democracy activists and disband civil rights groups.

Chinese authorities say the law has resorted stability and ended the disruption that mass protests had caused.

Hong Kong’s leader, Carrie Lam, said some former pro-democracy lawmakers had been “anti-China disruptors” who had caused chaos. 

Democrats jailed 

Many prominent Democrats are either jailed and awaiting trial or have fled to avoid prosecution. Hong Kong officials have also appeared to attempt to lower expectations for voting levels or to talk down the significance of a low turnout if it happens.

Chief Secretory John Lee, Hong Kong’s second-ranked official, said on December 11 that foreign agents were attempting to obstruct the election.

He did not provide evidence.

About the candidates

Candidates had to pass a higher threshold to get approval to stand. They had to obtain at least two nominations from each of the five sectors in the Election Committee.

Even after securing at least 10 nominations, potential candidates had to be screened by the national security policy, as well as by an eligibility review committee led by Chief Secretary, John Lee. 

The decision of the committee cannot be appealed, nor can judicial reviews be filed to challenge the decision.

Election day

Polls will open at 8:30 a.m. and close at 10:30 p.m., giving people one hour less to cast their votes compared to the previous election.

Under the revamped electoral system, while it is not illegal to cast blank or protest votes, it is against the law to incite others to boycott the election or cast blank votes. 

Holding elections in such conditions make them little more than a charade, said Johnny Patterson, co-founder of the UK-based Hong Kong Watch.

“These elections are a total sham. Earlier this year, the National Security police rounded up the entire pro-democracy camp and placed them under arrest for national security crimes, making meaningful opposition illegal. More recently, the police were threatening voters that boycotting the election could now be a crime,” he said.

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