Hong Kong, Dec 11 (EFE).- The first district councilor elections in Hong Kong “only for patriots” had a turnout of 27.5 percent, the government reported Monday, an unprecedented figure for elections in which opposition candidates have been excluded.
The former British colony last held district council elections in 2019, during the height of massive and sometimes violent anti-government protests, and saw a record turnout of 71 percent, a landslide victory for pro-democrats.
However, after the protests, authorities backed by a national security law imposed by Beijing launched an offensive against dissent with the aim of removing from public office those they consider politically disloyal.
In March 2021, a first electoral reform was promoted aimed at preventing figures considered “unpatriotic” from accessing positions of political power.
Election day was extended until midnight Sunday, after an unusual 90-minute extension was granted following a failure in the digital system used to confirm the eligibility of voters.
Despite this expansion, the government’s official website was updated Monday morning to show a final turnout of 27.54 percent: just under 1.2 million of the 4.3 million registered voters went to the polls.
The city’s leader, John Lee, thanked the “more than 1 million” voters for attending the polls around 1:45 a.m. local time on Monday (17:45 GMT on Sunday).
After voting Sunday, the chief executive said this year’s vote was “the last piece of the puzzle to implement the principle of ‘let patriots rule Hong Kong’.”
“From now on, the district councils will no longer be what they were in the past: a platform to destroy and reject government administration, promote Hong Kong’s independence and endanger national security,” Lee said after broadcasting his vote.
For its part, the Office for the Protection of National Security of the Hong Kong Government also extended its congratulations on the holding of these seventh elections Monday, ensuring that, thanks to them, “the chaos prevailing in the previous ones has been completely eliminated, creating an electoral culture of rational construction.”
During the work day, a total of six people were arrested for alleged calls to cast invalid votes and alleged acts of interference in the elections.
Three members of the pro-democracy group League of Social Democrats were arrested before a planned protest in front of a polling station in the residential neighborhood of Mid-Levels, where the chief executive was scheduled to vote.
Tam Yiu-chung, National Association of Hong Kong and Macau Studies vice president, said Monday in a program on local television channel RTHK that the participation rate “was within expectations, which is not bad at all.”
Tam, considered a loyalist to Beijing, said the turnout rate in Legislative Council elections is usually higher than that of district councilor elections because voters are more familiar with the candidates, and that the turnout rate in recent elections to the Legislative Council, in 2021, was about 30 percent.
“Young voters have always been less likely to vote than their older counterparts,” he said, adding that “after the pandemic, many people went to mainland China or abroad, so fewer people have been able to vote.” EFE