Hong Kong, December 10 (ANI): Following an electoral change that made it nearly difficult for pro-democracy candidates to be on the ballot, Hong Kong has begun voting in its first “patriots only” district council election, according to Al Jazeera.
The vote on Sunday, which limits locals to choosing between hand-picked Beijing loyalists, comes after Hong Kongers gave pro-democracy candidates their biggest win in the Chinese-ruled city’s history during the previous district election in 2019.
Following months of anti-government mass rallies, the pro-democracy victory, with a record 71 per cent turnout, was considered an embarrassing loss to Chinese and Hong Kong authorities.
Only 88 of the 470 members will be directly chosen under the altered electoral system announced in May, and candidates must be approved by government-appointed committees.
More than 70 per cent of candidates for directly elected positions are members of the screening committees.
The Democratic Party, Hong Kong’s largest opposition party, failed to gain nominations for any of its candidates, while centrists and even pro-establishment moderates have complained that the new regulations have barred them from running, according to Al Jazeera.
According to Al Jazeera, the electoral reform comes on the heels of the implementation of a severe national security law in 2020, which has all but eliminated democratic activism in Hong Kong, which is meant to enjoy freedoms not present in mainland China under a deal known as “one country, two systems.”
Despite insisting that turnout will not determine election success, Hong Kong officials have attempted to generate public enthusiasm by organising free concerts and fun fairs, waiving museum admission fees, putting up posters, and offering community centres payments to encourage the elderly to vote, Al Jazeera reported.
Meanwhile, on Friday, a 77-year-old man was arrested on charges of preparing to carry out sedition in connection with a purported plan to protest the election.
In a similar incident earlier this week, the authorities charged a 38-year-old man for allegedly sharing a video of an overseas commentator advocating for a boycott, and an arrest warrant was issued for a Germany-based activist accused of urging people not to vote.
Authorities have cautioned against any attempt to sabotage the election, with more than 12,000 police officers reportedly deployed throughout the city. (ANI)
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