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Hong Kong voters stay away from ‘patriots-only’ election in rejection of Beijing’s control

“The call for a boycott as a solid form of political mobilization has taken effect, showing the will of the people [and] how angry they are at the regime,” said Ted Hui, a former elected lawmaker now living in exile in Australia.

In a rejection of Beijing’s new direction in Hong Kong, only 30.2 percent of voters cast ballots in the territory’s first “patriots-only” election, the lowest turnout at the polls since the handover to China in 1997, the Washington Post reports.

The turnout, less than half of the nearly 3 million of the who voted in the 2019 local elections, appeared to be a repudiation not only of the overwhelmingly pro-China candidates, but also of Beijing’s re-engineering of the territory. Ahead of the vote, Hong Kong authorities characterized casting a ballot as a vote of confidence in the political system and tried to boost participation after crushing the pro-democracy opposition.

“The call for a boycott as a solid form of political mobilization has taken effect, showing the will of the people [and] how angry they are at the regime,” said Ted Hui, a former elected lawmaker now living in exile in Australia.

A joint statement from the United States, Australia, Canada, New Zealand and Britain expressed “grave concern over the erosion of democratic elements” in Hong Kong, noting that the changes ahead of the election “eliminated any meaningful political opposition.” The statement urged China to protect Hong Kong’s fundamental freedoms and respect the 1997 handover agreement.

Sunday’s vote will determine the makeup of Hong Kong’s legislature. Only a portion of the body has ever been directly elected, but until recently, it nonetheless acted as a check on the Hong Kong government. The legislative elections were scheduled for 2020 but postponed for 18 months, with authorities citing the pandemic.

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