Hong Kong’s Chief Executive Carrie Lam has said it is too early to draw conclusions from the legislative elections in neighbouring Macau, which saw a record low turnout and numerous blank or spoiled ballot papers after 21 opposition figures were banned from standing.
“The right to vote and the right to stand for elections are enshrined in the Basic Law. This is a demonstration of the civic responsibility to register as a voter and then to cast your vote on election day,” said Lam.
Hong Kong on December 19 holds its own Legislative Council election under a new political system mandated by Beijing which will exclude most pro-democracy candidates.
Macau’s election on Sunday saw a series of protest ballots, some reading “I want real universal suffrage,” “DQ [disqualification],” and “Election under oligarchy.” Another read “objection, objection, objection,” whilst others were scrawled with profanity.
One read “hope comes from the people, change comes from resistance,” whilst another simply read “corrupt.”
Before the poll, Macau electoral officials disqualified 21 opposition candidates on the grounds that they had failed to uphold the Basic Law and bear allegiance to Hong Kong’s sister SAR.
Just some 137,000 people — or 42 per cent of the electorate — headed to the polls, a drop of almost 15 per cent compared to the previous election in 2017.
A Macau election official attributed the low turnout to the Covid-19 pandemic and hot weather. The SAR has not seen a case of the coronavirus for six weeks.
Beijing in March passed legislation to ensure only “patriots” govern Hong Kong, sharply reducing the number of directly elected seats, tightening control of elections and introducing a pro-Beijing panel to vet candidates.
Hong Kong has also outlawed campaigns urging people to cast blank or protest ballots.
According to the Elections (Corrupt and Illegal Conduct) Ordinance, it is illegal to “incite people” not to vote, or to urge them to cast blank or invalid ballots.
Hong Kong’s Legislative Council election was delayed from September last year, as the chief executive cited Covid-19 concerns.
The city will also see an election on Sunday for an expanded and more powerful Election Committee, which will be responsible for electing Hong Kong’s leader as well as choosing 40 of the 90 Legislative Council members.
Hong Kong’s Secretary for Security Chris Tang wrote in a blog post on Tuesday that the Security Bureau and the disciplined services would act with determination to ensure a “smooth and orderly” election.
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