Canada, U.S. ‘gravely concerned’ as pro-Beijing candidates win Hong Kong election

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WATCH: Hong Kong pro-democracy activists found guilty of 'unlawful assembly.' – Apr 1, 2021

Canada and its allies are “gravely concerned” over the “erosion of democratic elements” in Hong Kong following a pro-Beijing sweep in the territory’s legislative election.

On Monday, foreign ministers of Canada, Australia, New Zealand and the United Kingdom and the United States’ secretary of state issued a joint statement in response to Sunday’s election, the first since China passed a resolution to amend the city’s election laws to ensure only pro-Beijing “patriots” could run the city.

“We … express our grave concern over the erosion of democratic elements of the Special Administrative Region’s electoral system. Actions that undermine Hong Kong’s rights, freedoms and high degree of autonomy are threatening our shared wish to see Hong Kong succeed,” the statement reads.

“The overhaul of Hong Kong’s electoral system introduced earlier this year reduced the number of directly elected seats and established a new vetting process to severely restrict the choice of candidates on the ballot paper. These changes eliminated any meaningful political opposition.”

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Sunday’s election saw a 30.2 per cent voter turnout, which is the lowest since the British handed Hong Kong over to China in 1997.

Under the new laws passed in March, the number of directly elected lawmakers was reduced to 20 from 35, even as the legislature was expanded to 90 seats from 70.

Most of the lawmakers were appointed by largely pro-Beijing bodies to solidify them making up the majority of the legislature. All candidates were also vetted by a largely pro-Beijing committee before they could be nominated.

“Protecting space for peaceful alternative views is the most effective way to ensure the stability and prosperity of Hong Kong,” the ministers’ statement said. “We urge the People’s Republic of China to act in accordance with its international obligations to respect protected rights and fundamental freedoms in Hong Kong, including those guaranteed under the Sino-British Joint Declaration.”

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Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam said Monday she was “satisfied” with the results despite the low turnout. She added that the number of registered voters hit 92.5 per cent, a record high compared with the 2012 and 2016 elections, when around 70 per cent of voters registered.

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“For registered voters, deciding whether they want to exercise their voting rights in a particular election is entirely a matter for themselves,” she said at a news conference.

“In this election, 1.35 million voters cast their votes. They did not just return candidates of their choice to LegCo, and I think it was also because of their support for the improved electoral system,” Lam said, referring to the city’s Legislative Council.

— with files from The Associated Press.

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