The Hong Kong government has said it “strongly opposes” a statement from five foreign countries expressing concern following the city’s first “patriots-only” legislative race, where only one self-proclaimed “non-pro-establishment“ candidate was elected to the 90-person chamber amid a record-low turnout.

The comments came after Britain, the United States, Canada, Australia and New Zealand expressed “grave concern over the erosion of democratic elements of the Special Administrative Region’s electoral system” in a joint statement published on Monday.

A polling station at the Hennessy Road Government Primary School in Wan Chai. Photo: Kyle Lam/HKFP.

“We strongly oppose to the five countries’ attempt to smear against the 2021 LegCo General Election of Hong Kong by making up allegations contrary to facts and without basis. The 2021 LegCo General Election was held successfully after the improvement to the electoral system,” the Hong Kong government’s statement read.

“The improvement to the electoral system fully implements the principle of ‘patriots administering Hong Kong’, ensuring that members of the LegCo are patriotic, love Hong Kong and act in the interests of the country’s development and the long-term prosperity and stability of Hong Kong,” said a spokesperson from the government in the statement.

“On this basis, Legislators, returned on December 19, come from different backgrounds and across the political spectrum. Such diversity showcases the broad representation and political inclusiveness of the improved electoral system.”

On Sunday, Hong Kong saw its first Legislative Council (LegCo) election following a sweeping overhaul to its electoral system in March this year, where democratic representation was greatly reduced.

A pro-Beijing panel was also introduced as part of a vetting process for candidates, who also underwent screening by the national security police.

The city’s traditional pro-democracy parties did not send any candidates in the election, and with most pro-democracy figures either behind bars, in self-exile, or quitting politics, only a dozen candidates who claimed to be “non-pro-establishment” stood in the race. Only one was elected.

Chinese media hails ‘high’ turnout

The election also saw a historic-low voter turnout, around 1.3 million people, or 30.2 per cent of all registered electors, cast their ballots on Sunday, the lowest since the city’s first LegCo election in 1991 under British colonial rule.

Pro-Beijing mouthpiece Ta Kung Pao’s frontpage headline on its Monday publication that reads: “LegCo race, Election Committee constituency representing the overall interests of Hong Kong, voter turnout of 98 per cent creating history.” Photo: Ta Kung Pao, via screenshot.

However, Chinese media, and two pro-Beijing mouthpieces in Hong Kong, gave focus to the “high turnout” in the 1,448-member Election Committee constituency.

The constituency of pro-Beijing loyalists, responsible for electing 40 seats in Hong Kong’s legislature, recorded a 98.48 per cent turnout, meaning that only 22 people, including former chief executive Tung Chee-hwa, did not vote on Sunday.

The Election Committee consists of elite representatives from sectors including business, social welfare, and also Hong Kong delegates to China’s top decision making bodies, the National People’s Congress, and the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference.

State-run Ta Kung Pao’s headline on its front page of its Monday publication read: “LegCo race, Election Committee constituency representing the overall interests of Hong Kong, voter turnout of 98 per cent creating history.”

iFeng News’ headline on its Sunday evening broadcast read: Enthusiastic voting in Hong Kong LegCo election: over 90 per cent voter turnout in Election Committee constituency.

“Over a million votes in Hong Kong LegCo election direct election, Election Committee constituency voter turnout reaches 97.44 per cent,” China News headline on election night read.

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Candice Chau

Candice is a reporter at Hong Kong Free Press. She previously worked as a researcher at a local think tank. She has a BSocSc in Politics and International Relations from the University of Manchester and a MSc in International Political Economy from London School of Economics.