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Hong Kong begins first polls after shake-up of electoral system

The formation of the election committee on Sunday is the first poll to be held under the patriots’ rule imposed by Beijing.

IANS | Hong Kong |

The 2021 Election Committee’s subsector ordinary polls in Hong Kong started on Sunday, the first election after the new “patriots only” system imposed by Beijing. The voting hours at five ordinary polling stations and one dedicated polling station across Hong Kong began at 9 a.m. and will end at 6 p.m., the Xinhua news agency reported.

Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam said on Sunday morning that the elections will bring new development to the city. The elections will lay a sound foundation for the upcoming elections for the Legislative Council (LegCo) and the Chief Executive, she said.

On March 11 this year, a decision on improving the electoral system was adopted by an overwhelming majority vote at the fourth session of the 13th National People’s Congress.

Under the central government’s radical revamp, designed to ensure only “patriots” govern Hong Kong, the original 1,200-strong Election Committee has been expanded by 300 seats and given new powers to not only elect the city’s next leader but also nominate lawmakers and field up to 40 of its members for the Legislative Council.

Out of the 1,500 seats of the Election Committee, 325 people were determined to be validly registered as ex-officio members; 156 persons were validly nominated to be members of the Election Committee; and 603 candidates would be uncontested, while 412 candidates would contest for 364 seats.

The actual number of members of the Election Committee will be fewer than 1,500 due to the LegCo election yet to be held and the overlapping status of some ex-officio members. The financial hub has never been a democracy – the source of years of protests ~ but a small and vocal opposition was tolerated after the city’s 1997 handover to authoritarian China.

Beijing insists the new political system is more representative and will ensure “anti-China” elements are not allowed into office. Critics say it leaves no room for the pro-democracy opposition and turns Hong Kong into a mirror of the authoritarian Communist party-ruled mainland.

(With inputs from agencies)