voice for democracy

Hong Kong election set to field no pro-democracy candidates – Nikkei Asia

Beijing-led process designed to shut out opposition politicians
HONG KONG — The upcoming legislative election here is strongly expected to have no pro-democracy candidates on the ballot under changes engineered by the central Chinese government in Beijing.
Hong Kong starts taking applications Saturday from Legislative Council hopefuls for the Dec. 19 vote.
But fewer than a quarter of the seats will be directly elected this time around, and each candidate must be vetted in advance as sufficiently patriotic.
The Democratic Party, the largest pro-democracy party, said Oct. 11 that it would not back any candidates. It was divided on whether to boycott the election altogether. The door was left open for members to run on their own, but none did.
Neither the Civic Party nor the Hong Kong Association for Democracy and People’s Livelihood put forth any contenders.
Gone is the lively atmosphere of past election seasons, when candidates would introduce themselves to commuters by train stations.
Just 20 of the 90 seats will be decided directly by voters. Another 40 will be filled by an Election Committee dominated by those willing to do Beijing’s bidding. The other 30 seats are for so-called functional constituencies representing industrial and other sectors.
Previously, a candidate needed only to be nominated by 100 citizens to run. Now an Election Committee recommendation is needed, significantly stacking the deck against pro-democracy hopefuls.
“In simple words, the future elections in Hong Kong are all Chinese-characteristic elections,” said Ivan Choy, senior lecturer in the government and public administration department at the Chinese University of Hong Kong.
Hopefuls who get the Election Committee’s green light are then prescreened for patriotism by an eligibility review committee led by Chief Secretary for Administration John Lee, who cracked down on the pro-democracy Apple Daily before it folded in June.
Multiple politicians in the centrist camp, which claims not to be pro-Beijing, will stand as candidates. Path of Democracy and Third Side have agreed to cooperate in their respective campaigns. Their four common principles include promoting democratic reforms and “safeguarding national security on the one hand and protecting the core values enshrined in the Basic Law on the other.”
But few believe that the two groups represent conventional pro-democracy values. How much support the alliance will gain is unclear.
Experience shows that “if pro-demo[cracy] supporters do not have their ideal candidate participate, they would rather not vote,” Choy said.
The absence of mainstream pro-democracy parties will have “a rather big impact” on this election’s voter turnout, he said.
The turnout in 2016 was 58%. In Macao, which has adopted a “one country, two systems” framework similar to Hong Kong, essentially excluded pro-democracy candidates from its legislative election in September. The turnout then was the lowest in its history.
The pro-Beijing faction has historically enjoyed an advantage on the Legislative Council, but the pro-democracy camp had maintained a conspicuous presence thanks to directly elected seats.
Following the mass demonstrations of 2019, China imposed a tough new national security law on Hong Kong last year that ushered in a harsh new reality.
All of the Legislative Council’s pro-democracy lawmakers have resigned or been disqualified.
The purge has extended to district councils, where pro-democracy candidates once won around 85% of the seats. More than 300, or 80%, have been driven out.
With the Legislative Council race now packed with pro-Beijing figures, an election ostensibly held to reflect the popular will no longer serves that function.
Additional reporting by Stella Wong.
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