Candidates from Hong Kong are running in the parliamentary elections only for “patriots”, Reuters

Candidates from Hong Kong are running in the parliamentary elections only for “patriots”, Reuters

© Reuters. A pair of surveillance cameras are seen along the Tsim Sha Tsui coast as buildings on the horizon are located across Victoria Harbor in Hong Kong, China, July 28, 2020. REUTERS / Tyrone Siu

Author: Aleksandar Solum

HONG KONG (Reuters) – Adrian Lau is one of the few independent candidates running in Sunday’s election to the Hong Kong Legislative Council. The election is the first since Beijing imposed a comprehensive national security law and shook the city’s electoral system.

The new system establishes what the government calls an improved electoral system based on the “patriots who rule Hong Kong” principle. All candidates must be approved by the National Security Verification Commission.

The main pandemocratic parties in Hong Kong, which are traditionally considered the opposition, did not present or support any candidate. Many opposition lawmakers resigned from parliament in November 2020 in protest of a government that disqualified elected lawmakers.

Lau, who is running for parliament for the first time, describes himself as an independent democrat.

He says he has some benefits from running and hopes to prevent the legislature from quickly following government initiatives without proper scrutiny.

“The best thing for us is that there will still be one person (in the legislature) who belongs to the democratic side. Someone who can continue to speak on behalf of the people of Hong Kong,” Lau told Reuters. “I will use the tools and resources in the Legislative Council, and make sure that I continue to speak the truth, that I continue to speak common sense.”

The Hong Kong government has repeatedly said that rights and protections, including freedom of speech, are protected by a national security law that came into force last year.

In Sunday’s election, only 20 of the 90 seats will be directly elected by the public, out of 35 candidates. There are 153 candidates in the election, all of whom were screened before they were allowed to run. Of these, only a dozen moderate people of various backgrounds say they are not affiliated with the pro-establishment camp, while the rest are pro-Beijing and pro-establishment figures.

A Hong Kong government spokesman did not answer Reuters’ questions as to why there are so few independent candidates running in the election.

In February, police indicted 47 pro-democracy activists in Hong Kong and former MPs for conspiracy for subversion over their role in unofficial “primary elections” after Beijing introduced the city’s national security law last year.

Shortly after the arrest, the Chinese parliament announced major changes in the electoral environment, reducing the number of directly elected seats from half to about a quarter, while an election commission full of pro-Beijing figures will elect 40 seats in the legislature.

A new vetting body has also been set up at the behest of China and headed by senior Hong Kong officials to screen potential candidates to ensure only “patriots” are running, the government said in a statement.

Lau, who is running in the parliamentary elections for the first time, told Reuters that he spent two weeks seeking nominations from pro-Beijing figures and received 10, the minimum required, through a business contact he did not want to name.

Jean-Pierre Cabestan, a political scientist from Hong Kong, said the new electoral reforms had brought the traditional pro-democratic opposition into trouble.

“Pandemocrats are faced with a real dilemma because on the one hand, if you accept the new rules of the game, you can be accused of legitimizing a system that is basically unfair. “And if you boycott the system, you will not have a chance to have a voice in the new political arrangement,” he said.

Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam said the election is now “much more representative with more balanced participation” and that she would choose those “who are patriotic to run the city”.

Ng Chau-pei, a member of the National People’s Congress and leader of the Pro-Beijing Federation of Trade Unions of Hong Kong, is a staunch supporter of electoral change. The establishment candidate told Reuters he was running to help address deep-rooted social problems related to areas including housing, aging society and the gaping wealth gap in the city.

While Hong Kong’s new electoral system has been criticized by foreign governments and overseas activists, some of whom have called for a boycott, Ng described it as a key and necessary step to improve governance in the city.

“In the past, the Legislative Council has been paralyzed by interference by foreign powers and collusion between internal and external forces,” Ng said. “The work of the government has also been obstructed, resulting in many missed opportunities in terms of taking care of our livelihoods and economic issues.

Ng described the accusations of reducing freedoms in the Asian financial capital as simply a “election campaign”.

“Our current Legislative Council has 90 representatives, unlike the previous ones, where there were 70. This means that there is an even wider representation. Participation is more even and widespread and now all kinds of stakeholders will be able to speak. Heard.”

Source link

Leave a Reply