HK elections make international news

From the SCMP

Hong Kong’s first “patriots-only” district council election has been lauded by Beijing and local authorities as “a success in improving governance structure”, calling it “real, functioning democracy” despite the poll yielding a record low turnout.

…Veteran politician Tam Yiu-chung, who formerly served as the city’s sole delegate to the nation’s top legislative body, insisted the voter turnout was “reasonable”.

The 27% turnout is the lowest since 1997 and grabs many of the headlines. But HKFP reports perhaps the most interesting election-related figures…

A total of 163, or 92.6 per cent, of the 176 seats in the small-circle committee elections were themselves members of the three committees, according to a HKFP tally.

In the race voted for by the general public, 84, or 95.4 per cent, of the 88 seats also sat on one of the three committees.

In total, 247, or 93.6 per cent, of the 264 elected seats were members of the three committees.

No-one in government wants to acknowledge the possibility that what happened was a large-scale boycott. Comment in (probably paywalled) international press is less squeamish…

The FT says

…Hong Kong’s voters largely steered clear of a Beijing-imposed “patriots only” election yesterday, in a blow to official efforts to legitimise China’s vision for governance of the territory.

…The final turnout in the last district election in 2019, when opposition candidates won by a landslide, was 71.2 per cent. The previous record low turnout was 30.3 per cent in 1988.

Local officials had made exhaustive efforts to persuade citizens to vote under an electoral regime that in effect barred opposition candidates from standing. Turnout was seen as an important test of the government’s ability to demonstrate public support for the political order imposed by China’s President Xi Jinping.

Many pro-democracy supporters snubbed the polls after the number of directly elected district councillors was cut to less than 20 per cent of 470 seats, down from 94 per cent in 2019. 

From Bloomberg

Hong Kong’s local council elections drew their lowest turnout in nearly three decades, as residents snubbed a system lacking political diversity after a revamp to cement China’s control.

…“The election no longer serves as a channel for citizens to speak to authority,” John Burns, emeritus professor at the Department of Politics and Public Administration at the University of Hong Kong, said before the polls. “Had authorities permitted some pan-democrats or middle-of-the-road candidates, turnout would likely increase.”

…Low turnout despite [the government’s] all-out push would indicate a vast majority of the public are now “outside the stadium,” Kenneth Chan, associate professor of the Department of Government and International Studies at Hong Kong Baptist University, said before the elections.

“It’s not political apathy,” added the former lawmaker, “but a widespread political disengagement by design.”

By which I assume he means the authorities designed a political system that – even by previous standards – cuts the public out of the process, so many people see no point in participating in the new arrangements. 

(The ‘all-patriots’ model is designed to eliminate any critics. Although they have never been allowed to elect their government, Honkongers could previously elect an opposition. Now all they are allowed to do is elect people who follow the government line. That means there is no longer a formal mechanism for upward feedback to register popular discontent. Even such informal methods as small peaceful demonstrations or criticism of the government can now attract sedition charges or menacing threats of action against ‘soft resistance’. Will this really improve governance?)


The low voter turnout reflects the level of public support for the new system and people’s political disengagement, said Kenneth Chan, associate professor in political science at the Hong Kong Baptist University and a former lawmaker.

“People in Hong Kong felt disinvited from the elections, now heavily vetted,” he said, adding that many believe the government should directly appoint these representatives rather than waste resources on a highly controlled election.

“The bigger embarrassment is that the government had mobilized from top to bottom, using both carrot and stick tactics to push for a higher voter turn out, but it ended in failure,” Chan said. 

Simply appointing members of these bodies would certainly save election-related costs. But why not just scrap the District Councils and LegCo and be done with it? Mainland academics and ideological theoreticians like to stress that ‘separation of powers’ and ‘checks and balances’ are unacceptable in China’s system. 

Not done with the bitchiness, the Journal adds…

The government extended polling hours by 90 minutes after saying a computer glitch had delayed people voting and in the evening canceled hourly updates of voter turnout.

A quick tour of Twitter, starting with defrog

…the election yesterday was for 88 seats out of 470 (with 27 for rural committee chairs, and the rest either appointed by govt or elected by small pro-Beijing committees), so the pro Beijing camp already controlled 382 seats before the voting even started.

Ryan Ho Kilpatrick

In this election, every vote cast is one for the gov’t. The pro-Beijing camp is guaranteed to take 100% of seats, after taking ~18% in 2019. But with just 1/4 of eligible voters (<1.1m) turning up today, they’ll likely do so with even fewer votes than in 2019, when they got 1.2m.


What election?  When you jailed all the electable, it is not a election, it is filtration


According to HK01 Beijing demanded a 30% turnout. After wasting taxpayers’ money on fireworks, ad campaigns, outdoor events, free transport to polling stations from elderly homes, a sham election shows itself. No extravaganza will make an illegitimate government legitimate

A list of people arrested (or wanted) for inciting others to boycott the election, disrupt it, or similar things.

Cartoon showing similarity between voter turnout and Hang Seng Index.

News reports have been highlighting the participation of South Asian candidates and voters, particularly in Kowloon. I predicted a week or so ago that there would be fewer brown people in all District Councils combined than in the current UK Conservative administration’s cabinet. Judge for yourself here and here. (In theory, some ethnic minorities could use Chinese-sounding names. Probably not Pinyin ones. Hmmm.)

An AP quote

“The newly elected district councilors come from diverse backgrounds,” Hong Kong leader John Lee said. “They will make the work in the districts more multidimensional … better aligning with the interests of the citizens.”

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7 Responses to HK elections make international news

  1. wmjp says:

    Collective noun for the district councils: Puppetry

  2. Chinese Netizen says:

    Upcoming Taiwan elections: “Hold my beer”

  3. Travis Bickle says:

    The new governing strategy is revealed: they’re going to bore us to death.

  4. Chinese Netizen says:

    “…computer glitch had delayed people voting and in the evening canceled hourly updates of voter turnout.”

    What playbook is this from? Oh yeah…no longer reporting youth unemployment figures up north.

  5. Stu says:

    Another interesting figure not mentioned is they spent over a billion promoting the elections, which works out to about$1000 power vote casted.

  6. Chris Maden says:

    @Travis Bickle

    If RPHK(Radio Propaganda HK)’s news this morning is anything to go by, it’s already begun.

  7. Load Toad says:

    ‘HK elections make international news’

    Sadly in a year or two they won’t – it’ll just be another Chinese city where the people are mere serfs and are not represented in their government in any way.

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