(Bloomberg) -- Hong Kong’s first public ballot since China overhauled the city’s electoral system to ensure “patriots” rule was dogged by complaints of a counting delay, in a vote closely watched by Beijing.
It took officials over 10 hours to tally some 4,380 ballots after polls closed at 6 p.m. Sunday, leading many to question the hold-up. The number of eligible voters to pick the committee that will next year select the city’s leader was slashed to 7,900 from more than 240,000 in 2016.
At an early press conference Monday, Electoral Affairs Commission chairman Barnabas Fung apologized for the delay, saying the time “far exceeded reasonable expectations” and that results should have been called at midnight. He pointed to issues with ballot verification papers, such as officials filling in the wrong box, according to local media including Radio Television Hong Kong.
Only 364 of the 1,500 seats were contested, and just one opposition-friendly candidate, Tik Chi-yuen, won a seat on the committee.
Beijing’s top agencies overseeing Hong Kong on Monday both congratulated the city. China’s cabinet-level Hong Kong and Macau Affairs Office said the poll showed a “new atmosphere and new hope of Hong Kong’s transition from chaos to governance.”
“The elections were conducted with full respect of the principle of patriots administering Hong Kong, demonstrated the progressiveness and superiority of the revamped electoral system, and represented a major step forward in advancing democracy with Hong Kong characteristics,” the Liaison Office said in a statement.
On Monday officials touted a 90% turnout at polling booths, and city leader Carrie Lam said Sunday the committee’s new structure “widely represented” society, despite just 0.1% of Hong Kong’s 7.4 million residents being eligible to vote.
At least 6,000 police officers were reported to have been deployed Sunday as voters from the corporate world and pro-government groups cast their ballots, Radio Television Hong Kong reported before the vote, underscoring political sensitivities around the poll.
In March, China’s top legislative body overhauled the Election Committee, to add an 300 additional seats for Beijing loyalists, and create a vetting committee to pre-approve all candidates based on national security checks. Winners of this election will now choose 40 of the 90 seats in the city’s Legislative Council.
That remake came in the wake of often-violent protests against the government that rocked Hong Kong in 2019, with Chief Executive Carrie Lam’s administration seemingly losing control at times. Last June, Beijing imposed a national security law on the city that has been used to arrest more than 140 opposition figures and activists, and target several civil society organizations.
People’s Daily, a mouth piece for the central government, this week described the elections as being of “great significance.” Their smooth running will lay a solid foundation for the city’s economic development and ability to achieve good governance, it said.
Chinese Vice-Premier Han Zheng told the city’s leader Carrie Lam on Saturday, in Shenzhen, to ensure upcoming elections are well organized and the principle of “patriots administering Hong Kong” is maintained, state news agency Xinhua reported.
“Our improved election system ensures ‘patriots administer Hong Kong’ and helps us to return to the original resolution of ‘One Country Two System,’” said Lam at a briefing in Hong Kong on Sunday. “Today’s event is of significant importance.”
Story Link: Hong Kong Police Out in Force as Elite Group Casts Ballots (1)
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