Results for the vote for members of Hong Kong's Election Committee were finalized Monday after hours of delays, with just one opposition-leaning candidate elected to the 1,500-strong committee.
On Sunday, select Hong Kong residents voted for members of the Election Committee that will choose the city's leader in the first polls following reforms meant to ensure candidates with Beijing loyalty.
Results were expected to be announced by midnight, but due to several delays they were only announced at 8 a.m. on Monday. Authorities said there were problems with the ballot verification papers, and that it was likely that officials were filling in paperwork incorrectly, causing the delays.
The Election Committee will select 40 of 90 lawmakers in the city's legislature during elections in December, as well as elect Hong Kong's leader during polls in March next year.
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.
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.
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 previously 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 basic law and pledging allegiance to Hong Kong.
“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.
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.
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.