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World Voters choose new Hong Kong electors under pro-Beijing laws

12:55  19 september  2021
12:55  19 september  2021 Source:   msn.com

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HONG KONG (AP) — Select Hong Kong residents voted for members of the Election Committee that will choose the city's leader in the first polls Sunday following reforms meant to ensure candidates with Beijing loyalty.

A police officer guard at a street during a protest against an election committee that will vote for the city's leader in Hong Kong Sunday, Sept. 19, 2021. Hong Kong's polls for an election committee that will vote for the city's leader kicked off Sunday amid heavy police presence, with chief executive Carrie Lam saying that it is © Provided by Associated Press A police officer guard at a street during a protest against an election committee that will vote for the city's leader in Hong Kong Sunday, Sept. 19, 2021. Hong Kong's polls for an election committee that will vote for the city's leader kicked off Sunday amid heavy police presence, with chief executive Carrie Lam saying that it is "very meaningful" as it is the first election to take place following electoral reforms. (AP Photo/Vincent Yu)

The Election Committee will select 40 of 90 lawmakers in the city’s legislature during elections in December, as well as elect the Hong Kong leader during polls in March next year.

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In May, the legislature amended Hong Kong’s electoral laws to ensure that only “patriots” – people who are loyal to China and the semi-autonomous territory – will rule the city. The committee also was expanded to 1,500 members, from 1,200, and the number of direct voters for committee seats was reduced from about 246,000 to less than 8,000.

Voters enter a polling center for the election committee that will vote for the city's leader in Hong Kong Sunday, Sept. 19, 2021. Hong Kong's polls for an election committee that will vote for the city's leader kicked off Sunday amid heavy police presence, with chief executive Carrie Lam saying that it is © Provided by Associated Press Voters enter a polling center for the election committee that will vote for the city's leader in Hong Kong Sunday, Sept. 19, 2021. Hong Kong's polls for an election committee that will vote for the city's leader kicked off Sunday amid heavy police presence, with chief executive Carrie Lam saying that it is "very meaningful" as it is the first election to take place following electoral reforms. (AP Photo/Vincent Yu)

The restructured electoral process guarantees a vast majority of the Elections Committee will be largely pro-Beijing candidates, who are likely to choose a chief executive and nearly half of lawmakers who are aligned with the ruling Chinese Communist Party.

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Chen Baoying, right with red backpack, one of the four protesters is searched by police officers during a protest against an election committee in Hong Kong Sunday, Sept. 19, 2021. Hong Kong's polls for an election committee that will vote for the city's leader kicked off Sunday amid heavy police presence, with chief executive Carrie Lam saying that it is © Provided by Associated Press Chen Baoying, right with red backpack, one of the four protesters is searched by police officers during a protest against an election committee in Hong Kong Sunday, Sept. 19, 2021. Hong Kong's polls for an election committee that will vote for the city's leader kicked off Sunday amid heavy police presence, with chief executive Carrie Lam saying that it is "very meaningful" as it is the first election to take place following electoral reforms. (AP Photo/Vincent Yu)

“Today’s Election Committee elections are very meaningful as it is the first elections held after we have improved the electoral system to ensure that only patriots can take office,” Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam said. It’s not yet known if Lam will seek reelection in March.

The changes are part of a broad crackdown on Hong Kong civil society following mass pro-democracy protests in 2019. Authorities have tightened control over the city with a sweeping national security law imposed by China’s Communist Party that effectively criminalized opposition to the government. The law and other changes have forced several civil organizations to disband or seen their leaders arrested.

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Hong Kong Confederation of Trade Unions President Joe Wong Nai-yuen, third from right, with deep blue T-shirt, gestures while posing for a photo with other members before a news conference on the possibility of disbandment in Hong Kong Sunday, Sept. 19, 2021. Hong Kong's biggest opposition trade union said Sunday it would disband, following concerns for © Provided by Associated Press Hong Kong Confederation of Trade Unions President Joe Wong Nai-yuen, third from right, with deep blue T-shirt, gestures while posing for a photo with other members before a news conference on the possibility of disbandment in Hong Kong Sunday, Sept. 19, 2021. Hong Kong's biggest opposition trade union said Sunday it would disband, following concerns for "members' personal safety." (AP Photo/Vincent Yu)

Also Sunday, Hong Kong’s largest opposition trade union — the Hong Kong Confederation of Trade Unions — said it would disband out of concerns for the safety of its members. The trade union is the latest organization to disband, following the dissolution of a teachers’ union and rally organizer the Civil Human Rights Front last month.

A member of the Hong Kong Confederation of Trade Unions stands at the entrance before a news conference on the possibility of disbandment in Hong Kong Sunday, Sept. 19, 2021. Hong Kong's biggest opposition trade union said Sunday it would disband, following concerns for © Provided by Associated Press A member of the Hong Kong Confederation of Trade Unions stands at the entrance before a news conference on the possibility of disbandment in Hong Kong Sunday, Sept. 19, 2021. Hong Kong's biggest opposition trade union said Sunday it would disband, following concerns for "members' personal safety." (AP Photo/Vincent Yu)

Critics say the changes restrict freedoms Hong Kong was promised it could maintain for 50 years following the territory’s 1997 handover to China from colonial Britain.

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The nearly 4,900 voters representing different professions and industries who went to polls Sunday under a heavy police presence will choose among just 412 candidates for 364 seats in the Election Committee. Other seats were uncontested or held by people chosen based on their titles.

“This election lets us select solid patriots who love our country and Hong Kong to rule Hong Kong, and who demonstrate their strengths in Hong Kong’s administration and politics,” said Armstrong Lee, a candidate representing the social welfare sector.

Wang Ting-ting, a voter from the financial sector, said she would vote for candidates who are “patriots who love our country and love Hong Kong.”

A protester is surrounded by police officers at a street during a protest against an election committee that will vote for the city's leader in Hong Kong Sunday, Sept. 19, 2021. Hong Kong's polls for an election committee that will vote for the city's leader kicked off Sunday amid heavy police presence, with chief executive Carrie Lam saying that it is © Provided by Associated Press A protester is surrounded by police officers at a street during a protest against an election committee that will vote for the city's leader in Hong Kong Sunday, Sept. 19, 2021. Hong Kong's polls for an election committee that will vote for the city's leader kicked off Sunday amid heavy police presence, with chief executive Carrie Lam saying that it is "very meaningful" as it is the first election to take place following electoral reforms. (AP Photo/Vincent Yu)

“This is the most important,” she said. “Secondly, I would vote for those who are capable, because capability matters the most in this position.”

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Lam said the new Election Committee will be broadly representative as it included more grassroots organizations and associations that represent Hong Kongers who live and work in mainland China.

Sunday's vote was taking place at five polling stations heavily surrounded by police. Local newspaper South China Morning Post previously reported 6,000 police officers would be deployed to guard the polls, outnumbering the number of voters.

Results are expected Sunday night.

Four activists from pro-democracy political party League of Social Democrats staged a small protest near the polling station in the Wan Chai neighborhood. They laid out banners criticizing the “small circle election” as having a pretense of representing public opinion.

The four were stopped and searched by the police.

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Zen Soo reported from Singapore. Associated Press video journalists Matthew Cheng and Janice Lo contributed to this report.

Court case of 47 Hong Kong democracy activists to resume on November 29 .
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