12/11/2023, 16.00
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Low turnout for sham 'patriots only’ district council election

Despite an intense government campaign, just over a quarter of the electorate turned out to vote, a huge drop compared to four years ago when pro-democracy candidates won a landslide. With almost three eligible voters in four staying away, the outcome was unrepresentative. Six people were arrested for peacefully expressing dissent on election day.

Hong Kong (AsiaNews) – Only 27.5 per cent of voters cast their ballots in yesterday’s election for Hong Kong’s district councils, the lowest percentage ever recorded.

The last time Hongkongers picked their district councillors was on 24 November 2019, when almost three million people, an unprecedented 71.23 per cent of eligible voters, went to the polls, following a wave of protests.

By deserting polling stations this time, the people of Hong Kong sent a clear message, after mainland China cracked down harshly on the pro-democracy movement, and imposed only “patriotic candidates” for office, thus hollowing out the city’s political system.

The massive government campaign to encourage voting, with events and free admission to museums, not to mention subsidies to senior citizens’ homes to bus elderly voters to polling stations, was to no avail.

Extending voting hours by 90 minutes proved pointless as well. Ostensibly blamed on a technical glitch, it was more likely an intentional attempt to catch last-minute voters coming home from Shenzhen.

In the end, almost three out of four voters stayed away, and only 1.19 million voted, fewer than in the election to Hong Kong’s Legislative Council (LegCo) two years when only pro-China candidates were allowed to run.

For the Hong Kong government led by the "loyalist" John Lee, sweeping away the memory of what happened four years ago was a priority; in 2019, voters turned out en masse for pro-democracy candidates who won 388 seats out of 452.

This overwhelming success was probably the real reason that pushed Xi Jinping to impose a draconian national security law on the former British colony.

In September 2021, when an oath of allegiance was introduced, most pro-democracy district councillors were disqualified or resigned.

The last act in district council elections came in May of this year when election rules were overhauled, reducing the number of seats elected by popular vote to 20 per cent, with the rest reserved to members chosen by the city’s leader and government-appointed committees.

Finally, about 90 per cent of the newly elected are members of these three committees.

Election day provided another opportunity to snuff out every voice of dissent in Hong Kong. Six arrests were made for alleged calls to voters to spoil their ballots and suspected acts to interfere with the polls.

Three members of the pro-democracy League of Social Democrats – President Chan Po-ying and Vice Presidents Dickson Chow, and Yu Wai-pan – were arrested while trying to stage a protest outside the polling station where Chief Executive John Lee was due to cast his vote.

Likewise, veteran activist Koo Sze-yiu (pictured) was remanded in custody today after he was charged with sedition, this despite his age and being terminally ill with cancer.

The 77-year-old was arrested on Friday for trying to carry a coffin to a Registration and Electoral Office to protest the “unfair race”, wearing a T-shirt that read: "Arise in the truth or perish in the lie.”

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