Hong Kong Elects 1 Opposition Member, All Others Loyal to China

A 1,500-member panel responsible for choosing Hong Kong's next leader and almost half of the city's legislature will include only one opposition-member, while the rest are loyal to China, according to results of a select election announced Monday. The results come as authorities continue to impose restraints on dissent in the semi-autonomous metropolis, the Associated Press reported.

The Election Committee will choose Hong Kong's next leader in March of 2022, as well as 40 of 90 lawmakers for Hong Kong in upcoming December elections following a restructuring of electoral processes in May. The modifications expanded the panel from 1,200 to 1,500 members, while decreasing the number of direct voters who select panel members from approximately 246,000 to fewer than 8,000, AP reported.

The modified laws also permit only "patriots," or those loyal to China and Hong Kong, to lead the city, guaranteeing that a wide majority of the Elections Committee will be pro-Beijing and select a leader and legislature members loyal to the policies and rulings of the Chinese Communist Party. The Hong Kong government said in a Monday statement that the new committee is "broadly representative" and made up of "a number of subsectors."

For more reporting from the Associated Press, see below.

Hong Kong Panel Selection
A 1,500-member Elections Committee in Hong Kong will only include one opposition member, according to the results of a select election that took place on Sunday. Above, Erick Tsang (second left) secretary for Constitutional and Mainland Affairs Bureau, helps officials pour out ballots from a box at a counting center in Hong Kong on September 19, 2021. Vincent Yu/AP Photo

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 former British colony 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.

The only opposition-leaning candidate was elected in the social welfare sector. Of the more than 400 candidates who were running for seats Sunday, just two were friendly to the opposition camp in Hong Kong, with the rest being pro-Beijing candidates.

Candidates in the elections were vetted by a small but powerful committee headed by Chief Secretary John Lee to ensure that they meet the requirements for office, which include upholding the the city's Basic Law, its mini constitution, and pledging allegiance to Hong Kong.

"This new constitutional function will facilitate rational interaction between the executive authorities and the legislature, and effectively enhance governance efficiency," the Hong Kong government said in its Monday statement.

"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 Sunday. It's not yet known if Lam will seek reelection in March.

Separately, Hong Kong national security police on Monday arrested three members of the political organization Student Politicism. The three were arrested on suspicion of conspiracy to incite subversion, according to Li Kwai-wah, senior superintendent of the police national security division.

They are accused of using social media and setting up street booths to disseminate messages that endangered national security, even after the national security law came into effect last year.

The messages incited hatred toward the government and urged others not to obey the laws of Hong Kong, police said.

The student group, which was set up in May last year, is one of the few pro-democracy political organizations left in Hong Kong. Many political and opposition groups have ceased to operate following the implementation of the national security law.

Critics say the national security law and electoral changes restrict freedoms Hong Kong was promised it could maintain for 50 years following the territory's 1997 handover to China from Britain, which ruled the city as a colony beginning in 1841.

More than 140 people have been arrested under the security law, which outlaws secession, subversion, terrorism and foreign collusion to intervene in the city's affairs.

Hong Kong Panel Selected
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. Above, voters enter a polling center for the election committee that will vote for the city's leader in Hong Kong on September 19, 2021. Vincent Yu/AP Photo