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China calls new restrictions to Hong Kong elections as 'new practice of democracy'

December 23, 2021 5:44pm

Updated: July 1, 2022 9:00pm

The Chinese Communist Party attempted to legitimize its pro-Beijing “patriots only” election overhaul of Hong Kong’s electoral system as “the new practice of democracy” in the wake of record low turnout.  

“The standard of whether an election is successful is not how high-profile or bustling it is but if the elected are capable to improve governance,” said Liu Guangyuan, the Chinese Foreign Ministry’s commissioner for Hong Kong, at a press conference on Wednesday. “The development of Hong Kong’s democracy reminds us that it is time to wake up from the ‘Western-style democracy myth,’ put aside bias, and take an objective view over the new practice of democracy in Hong Kong.”

Liu’s speech was criticized abroad, including by one of the European Union’s lead policymakers who called it “that propaganda crap.”

“The participation was less than half of what it was last time, and even those that went only went because they were being coerced by their employer or by Chinese institutions,” said Reinhard Bütikofer, head of the European Parliament’s China delegation. “Their propaganda is not all that powerful, and it's based on lies.”

The parliamentary elections on Sunday in the former British colony were marked by historically low turnout. Hong Kong voters stayed home as a protest against China’s crackdown on democracy throughout the year, such as the arrest of prominent pro-democracy advocates in January and election reforms passed in March that required all candidates to be approved by Beijing.  

“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,” said the Five Eyes intelligence-sharing bloc of the U.K., the U.S., Australia, Canada and New Zealand in a statement about the election.  

Pro-Beijing candidates won all but one of the 20 seats up for election.