HONG KONG (AP) – Voter turnout in Hong Kong plummeted to 30% on Sunday as the first legislative elections took place since Beijing amended laws to reduce the number of directly elected legislators and screen candidates in order to ensure that only those loyal to the Chinese government can run.
The semi-autonomous territory was rocked by pro-democracy protests in 2014 and 2019, followed by the imposition of a strict national security law that silenced most opposition activists and forced others into exile.RELATED
Barnabas Fung, chairman of the Electoral Affairs Commission, announced that approximately 1,350,680 people voted, or about 30.2% of the electoral roll. In two most recent elections, in 2012 and 2016, there was a turnout of more than 50%.
The results were being announced Monday morning. Candidates supporting the current city and Beijing leadership are expected to dominate the new legislature.
Warton Leung, who did not consider voting on Sunday, said the lack of choice among the candidates detracted from the election.
“Although there is an opportunity to vote for pro-establishment and pro-democracy candidates, there are few democratic options, so people in Hong Kong are not enthusiastic about voting,” he said.
Others, like Yu Wai-kwan, saw the election as an opportunity to vote for a better Hong Kong.
“I am voting to choose a new group of people who will make Hong Kong a better place,” Yu said. “I am a patriot and I just want peace and quiet, and have a good livelihood.”
Hong Kong ruler Carrie Lam visited a polling station on Sunday morning and said she had “no specific expectations” about turnout.
“I would say that the government has not set a turnout target, not for this election, not for previous elections, because there is a combination of factors that will affect the turnout rate in any election,” he said.
After the polls closed, Lam issued a statement noting that the “improved” electoral system worked as intended.
“Today’s voting was conducted in an open, fair and honest manner, and overall the process was smooth,” Lam said.
The final results were to be released later on Monday, and Lam is scheduled to travel to Beijing later that day to report the result to central government leaders.
Three protesters from the League of Social Democrats held a small protest in front of the electoral college, chanting: “We want true universal suffrage.”
Matthew Cheng and Janice Lo contributed to this report.