THE OUTCOME OF the elections to Hong Kong’s Legislative Council (Legco) was the sweeping victory for pro-Beijing candidates expected, given the vote was conducted under new rules that effectively barred opposition candidates.
The election had been delayed by a year, purportedly on Covid-19-related public health grounds, but it gave the government the time to restructure the elections to provide an iron-clad pro-Beijing majority.
Total Legco seats increased to 90 from 70, but the number directly elected by voters was reduced to 20 from 35, so to barely one-fifth from one-half. Forty seats are filled by a pro-Beijing and pro-business electoral college drawn from the city’s establishment. Trade and profession-based functional business constituencies elect the remaining 35. Candidates are vetted for their loyalty to Beijing (‘patriotism’).
It was also made illegal to incite people not to vote or cast an invalid vote, punishable by a three-year jail sentence.
Voter intuition was largely to stay away from the polls. Turnout was a record low, 30.2%, down from 58.3% in 2016.
Before the elections, chief executive Carrie Lam said the expected low turnout would signify Hong Kongers’ satisfaction with the government as they had no reason to register protest votes, implicitly suggesting that authorities think of voting as a confrontational act.
Many, likely, most Hong Kongers do not share that view but are resigned to the city’s new political order rather than mobilising to push back against it. If the elections confirm one thing, it is that organised opposition to the government has been broken.