Hongkongers vote in city’s first ‘patriots-only’ polls

Beijing, Sep 19 (EFE).- Fewer than 5,000 Hongkongers were eligible to vote Sunday to select a powerful committee that will choose a new head of the government in the Special Administrative Region of China.

The eligible voter are political elites from pro-Beijing groups and their number is a little over half a percent of the 7.5 million population of Hong Kong.

The voters voted for 364 candidates of the 1,500-strong panel that selects the city chief executive and part of its legislature.

Voters cast their ballots at five polling stations across Hong Kong after all candidates passed a vetting process that ensures only those deemed to be patriots can hold public office, official Radio and TV Hong Kong said.

Candidates for the rest of the selection committee seats have already been appointed or elected uncontested.

Police commissioner Raymond Siu said the force mobilized some 5,000 to 6,000 officers for the safety of the elections.

The voting began at 9 am.

The authorities will declare election results on Sunday.

It is the first election in Hong Kong after the controversial overhaul of electoral regulations in the city earlier this year.

As per the new law, the Electoral Committee will be in charge of nominating candidates for the Legislative Council.

The committee will also select 40 seats for the revamped council in December and choose a chief executive in March next year.

South China Morning Post said only two opposition members are among the 412 candidates for the 364 seats.

Critics accuse the authorities of suppressing dissent with the new rules.

However, analysts say the election indicated the space left for a new breed of moderate opponents.

Chief Executive Carrie Lam Sunday dismissed suggestions that the revamped electoral system was to kill the opposition voices.

“The whole objective of improving the electoral system of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region is to ensure patriots administer Hong Kong. This is a very legitimate objective of any public election in any government,” she said.

“I doubt very much that another government or another country will allow the public elections to their local legislature to consist of people whose mission is to undermine the national interest or the national security.”

Chinese top legislature in March unanimously voted to approve the new electoral law that gave Beijing greater control over the city election system and restricted the right of the city residents to stand for election.

Analysts and Hong Kong activists said the reform was another step to tighten the Chinese control on the city and limit its already restricted electoral system.

China has claimed that the measure would help in “improving the electoral system in Hong Kong.”

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