Hong Kong voters went to the polls this morning to elect the legislative council, the first time since the electoral reforms and the special security law were passed.
Voter turnout is at the heart of election debates in the special zone today. The Hong Kong government sent out text messages yesterday urging people to vote, while critics urged voters to stay away from the ballot box as a way to protest.
In Hong Kong, it is against the law to induce someone not to vote or to vote invalid.
Early indications are that turnout appears to be lower than in the 2016 legislative assembly elections. After four hours, the city’s government figures show 12.08% of voters voters voted, down from 14.9% at the same time four years ago.
Some of the first people to vote when the ballot box opened at 8:30 said they wanted to fulfill their civic duty to ensure the stability of the special zone.
Language teacher Tam Po-chu, 79, said she hopes the new council will be well received by the public. “It doesn’t help if they don’t think about the people of Hong Kong,” she said.
Others said they would not vote, expressing anger at the changes to election rules.
Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam was among the first to vote. She told reporters at a polling station on the outskirts of the city that authorities “didn’t set any target” on voter turnout and she was not aware of any regulations from the polls. leadership in China.
Security was tight around the city, with 10,000 police officers and about 40,000 election officers deployed. Police Chief Raymond Siu said the move was to ensure a safe and smooth vote.
Chief of staff John Lee urged people to vote, saying those who didn’t vote were “traitors” who just wanted the election to fail.
The Hong Kong Legislative Council has the main functions of enacting, amending or repealing laws; examine and approve the budget, taxes and public expenditures; questions about government operations. In addition, the council is also empowered to confirm the appointment and dismissal of judges as well as the power to convict the chief executive.
From 153 candidates, 90 will be elected to the new Hong Kong legislative assembly. However, only 20 members are elected directly by the districts, 40 are elected by the electoral commission, and 30 are elected by functional groups.
China’s parliament in March announced sweeping changes to Hong Kong’s electoral system, including reducing the number of seats directly elected and establishing a censorship committee to screen all candidates. , emphasizing that only “patriots” could run the city.
Some foreign governments, including the US, argue that the electoral changes have undermined the city’s democracy.
However, the Chinese and Hong Kong governments deny these allegations, insisting that changes to the election and national security law that took effect last year are necessary to strengthen the governance of the special zone and restored stability after the 2019 protests.
Vu Hoang (Follow Reuters)