Hong Kong public gears up to vote amid new election laws

Dec 16, 2021, 7:19 AM | Updated: 9:27 pm
Jeffery Chan, a so-called "non-establishment" candidate and a member of local think tank Path of De...

Jeffery Chan, a so-called "non-establishment" candidate and a member of local think tank Path of Democracy, delivers the promotional leaflets to residents during his legislative election campaign in Hong Kong on Dec. 8, 2021. Hong Kong voters are preparing to vote for the first time this weekend since election laws were changed, amid a dearth of opposition candidates months after the city began cracking down on dissent. The legislative elections will be held on Sunday, Dec. 19, 2021. (AP Photo/Kin Cheung)

(AP Photo/Kin Cheung)

HONG KONG (AP) — Hong Kong voters are preparing to vote for the first time this weekend since election laws were changed, amid a dearth of opposition candidates months after the city began cracking down on dissent.

The legislative elections, to be held Sunday, come after Beijing in March passed a resolution for electoral reform in Hong Kong that gives Beijing more control over who is elected to Hong Kong’s legislature. Beijing has tightened its grip over the semi-autonomous Chinese city following months of pro-democracy protests in 2019 that at times descended into violent clashes between police and protesters.

Hong Kong later amended its laws in May, reducing the number of directly elected lawmakers to 20 from 35, even as the legislature was expanded from 70 to 90 seats. Most of the lawmakers in the legislature would be appointed by largely pro-Beijing bodies.

Under the new laws, legislative candidates will also be vetted by a largely pro-Beijing committee to ensure that only “patriots” loyal to Beijing rule the city.

The elections also come amid a crackdown on dissent in the city. Most of Hong Kong’s prominent pro-democracy activists and opposition politicians are either in jail or awaiting trial, after 47 pro-democracy figures were charged with subversion under a national security law in January over their roles in an unofficial primary election.

Authorities say that the primary — organized by the pro-democracy camp — was aimed at crippling the government and subverting state power.

The electoral reforms and stringent vetting processes have also led to fewer pro-democracy candidates. For the first time since 1997, no members from Hong Kong’s largest pro-democracy party, the Democratic Party, submitted applications to be nominated.

Overall, the number of candidates for the elections has also fallen. This year, the elections committee approved the nominations of 153 candidates — about half of the 289 nominated to run in the 2016 race.

Regina Ip, a pro-establishment candidate running in the Hong Kong Island West constituency, said that voters will take some time to get used to the new electoral system.

“In the long term, this is a system that permits people of different political ideologies to take part as long as they support our basic constitutional system,” she said. “That is not too much to ask.”

Voter turnout is widely expected to be low for Sunday’s elections. Polls by the Hong Kong Public Opinion Research Institute in November found that 53% of respondents opposed the new electoral system, and only 52% planned to vote — which would be the lowest turnout in three decades.

But Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam dismissed concerns of low voter turnout, saying that low voting numbers could indicate that people were happy with the government and did not see a need to elect different lawmakers.

To encourage people to vote, authorities announced that public transport will be free on Sunday. The government also set up polling stations at border checkpoints that will allow registered Hong Kong voters living and working in mainland China to cross the border briefly to vote, before returning to the mainland without having to undergo quarantine.

Earlier this month, Lam said that some 18,000 people had registered to vote at the border polling stations.

Some activists abroad, such as London-based Nathan Law, have called for Hong Kong residents to boycott the elections, describing the race as a “selection” in which candidates have been vetted by “political police.”

“Figures representing people have no hope of running,” Law said in a tweet earlier this week.

New election laws have also banned residents in Hong Kong from inciting others to cast invalid votes or boycott the elections. Those convicted of doing so face up to three years in jail and a 200,000 Hong Kong dollar ($25,600) fine.

The new electoral reforms are a “derailing of the democratization process,” said Kenneth Chan, an associate professor in Hong Kong Baptist University’s department of government and international studies.

“At the end of the day, 4.4 million eligible voters in December would only be choosing 20 of the 90 lawmakers,” he said. “If you just run the arithmetic, you can easily tell there isn’t really any progress towards democracy.”

The lack of candidates with different political inclinations in the elections also does not inspire confidence in terms of the possible checks and balances that could exist between the government and the legislature, according to Chan.

Still, some election hopefuls are running for seats with a moderate stance. Jeffrey Chan, a so-called “non-establishment” candidate and a member of local think tank Path of Democracy, is reluctant to define his position on the political spectrum.

“We would support pro-establishment lawmakers or the government if what they propose is good for Hong Kong. We will oppose if they don’t make sense,” Chan said. “We don’t have a fixed stance. This is what we are. We stand with Hong Kong citizens and we strive for democracy, rule of law and freedom.”

Another candidate, Adrian Lau, is one of the few in this election who have described themselves as “pro-democracy.” Lau previously owned a public relations business, before turning to politics.

He ran in the 2019 district council elections, beating veteran pro-establishment politician Michael Tien in the Tsuen Wan district. District councillors typically look after municipal matters, such as the maintenance of public facilities and organizing of community events.

“Now, we don’t have the power to oppose, but we could still monitor the government and officials as well as the budget,” Lau said.

“A legislator also has an important role to communicate with foreign media. Do we still need someone from the pro-democracy camp to do this job? If no one is doing it, we are just sitting back and doing nothing,” he said. “I choose not to sit back and surrender.”

Associated Press news assistant Janice Lo in Hong Kong contributed to this report.

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

AP

Associated Press

Famed American ski mountaineer missing in Nepal mountain

KATHMANDU, Nepal (AP) — Rescuers in a helicopter were searching on the world’s eighth-highest mountain Tuesday for a famed U.S. ski mountaineer a day after she fell off the mountain near the peak. Also Monday, an avalanche at a lower elevation on Mount Manaslu swept several climbers, killing a Nepali guide and injuring other climbers. […]
22 hours ago
South Carolina Rep. John McCravy, R-Greenwood, talks about a total ban on abortion he has proposed ...
Associated Press

Major abortion law changes unlikely in S. Carolina after Roe

COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) — Whether conservative South Carolina changes its abortion laws at all in the wake of this year’s U.S. Supreme Court decision may be decided by divided conservatives Tuesday in the state House. South Carolina for decades was at the forefront of passing more restrictive abortion laws that challenged Roe v. Wade. before […]
22 hours ago
Adismarys Abreu, 16, poses for a photo at her home, Tuesday, Aug. 23, 2022, in Miami. Abreu had bee...
Associated Press

Teen interest in long-lasting birth control soars after Roe

Sixteen-year-old Adismarys Abreu had been discussing a long-lasting birth control implant with her mother for about a year as a potential solution to increasing menstrual pain. Then Roe v. Wade was overturned, and Abreu joined the throng of teens rushing to their doctors as states began to ban or severely limit abortion. “I’m definitely not […]
22 hours ago
FILE - Stewart Rhodes, founder of the Oath Keepers, speaks during a rally outside the White House i...
Associated Press

Jury to be picked for Oath Keeper boss’ Jan. 6 sedition case

Jury selection is expected to get underway Tuesday in the trial of the founder of the far-right Oath Keepers extremist group and four associates charged with seditious conspiracy, one of the most serious cases to emerge from the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the U.S. Capitol. Stewart Rhodes and the others are the first Jan. […]
22 hours ago
Former Miss America Cara Mund poses in front of the North Dakota state Capitol in Bismarck, N.D., S...
Associated Press

Cara Mund’s House pitch rides on abortion, outsider appeal

BISMARCK, N.D. (AP) — When Cara Mund was competing to become Miss North Dakota, a key part of her platform was increasing the number of women elected to political office. Later, after she became the state’s first Miss America winner, she traveled the country to encourage women to use their voice to make an impact. […]
22 hours ago
Wisconsin Democratic U.S. Senate candidate Mandela Barnes meets with older voters at Elie’s Café...
Associated Press

Wisconsin’s Johnson embraces controversy in reelection bid

MADISON, Wis. (AP) — Far from shying from his contrarian reputation, Wisconsin Republican Sen. Ron Jonson is leaning into controversy as he runs for his third term. Johnson has called for the end of guaranteed money for Medicare and Social Security, two popular programs that American politicians usually steer clear from. He’s trafficked in conspiracy […]
22 hours ago

Sponsored Articles

Anacortes Christmas Tree...

Come one, come all! Food, Drink, and Coastal Christmas – Anacortes has it all!

Come celebrate Anacortes’ 11th annual Bier on the Pier! Bier on the Pier takes place on October 7th and 8th and features local ciders, food trucks and live music - not to mention the beautiful views of the Guemes Channel and backdrop of downtown Anacortes.
Swedish Cyberknife Treatment...

The revolutionary treatment of Swedish CyberKnife provides better quality of life for majority of patients

There are a wide variety of treatments options available for men with prostate cancer. One of the most technologically advanced treatment options in the Pacific Northwest is Stereotactic Body Radiation Therapy using the CyberKnife platform at Swedish Medical Center.
Work at Zum Services...

Seattle Public Schools announces three-year contract with Zum

Seattle Public Schools just announced a three-year contract with a brand-new company to the Pacific Northwest to assist with their student transportation: Zum.
Swedish Cyberknife 900x506...

June is Men’s Health Month: Here’s Why It’s Important To Speak About Your Health

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, men in the United States, on average, die five years earlier than women.
...

Anacortes – A Must Visit Summertime Destination

While Anacortes is certainly on the way to the San Juan Islands (SJI), it is not just a destination to get to the ferry… Anacortes is a destination in and of itself!
...

Ready for your 2022 Alaskan Adventure with Celebrity Cruises?

Celebrity Cruises SPONSORED — A round-trip Alaska cruise from Seattle is an amazing treat for you and a loved one. Not only are you able to see and explore some of the most incredible and visually appealing natural sights on the planet, but you’re also able to relax and re-energize while aboard a luxury cruise […]
Hong Kong public gears up to vote amid new election laws