Hong Kong’s chief executive, Carrie Lam, has defended the weekend’s election of a powerful committee to appoint senior leaders, after just one candidate not strictly aligned with the establishment camp was elected among the 1,500 positions.
Under an overhauled electoral system, dubbed “patriots rule Hong Kong”, fewer than 5,000 people were eligible to vote on Sunday, choosing from candidates who had already been vetted for political loyalty and cleared of being a national security threat.
The results saw primarily Beijing loyalists and pro-establishment figures elected to the committee. The group will choose nearly half the Hong Kong legislature next year, and a new leader for the territory.
Just two candidates described by local media as not strictly from the establishment ranks , were able to run. Only one, Tik Chi-yuen, was elected.
On Tuesday at her regular press briefing Lam rejected criticisms of the lack of opposition figures among the candidates and eligible voters, saying “non-patriots” were not allowed to enter the establishment of Hong Kong as they may undermine it.
“You asked why so few candidates who are not from the pro-establishment camp got elected. How can I answer this question? There was only one objective behind the approved electoral system – to ensure patriots administer Hong Kong,” she said.
“Under the mechanism diverse views are welcome … They must uphold the basic law and swear allegiance to the People’s Republic of China and the Hong Kong SAR [Special Administrative Region]. I believe these are reasonable requirements.”
The new system was introduced by Beijing, amid a suite of measures designed to crack down on the pro-democracy movement in Hong Kong following months of massive protests.
Under the electoral changes, the election committee will appoint 40 of Hong Kong’s 90 legislative seats. Another 30 will be chosen by special interest groups and just 20 will be directly elected. Sunday’s 5,000 voters were a fraction of the more than 230,000 Hong Kongers who were eligible to vote for the committee in 2016.
Beijing and Hong Kong authorities claims it will ensure “anti-China elements will be barred from office, but critics say it is bringing Hong Kong’s political system closer to that of the Communist Party-ruled mainland China.
“The improved electoral system will effectively improve people’s standard of living and livelihood and help Hong Kong better integrate into… our country,” Lam said on Tuesday.
“This is a form of democratic election because the members are returned by an election. When it comes to elections it’s not one size fits all - one has to take into account the actual situation of the place.”
Lam said individuals from the non pro-establishment or pro-democracy camps were welcome to run for elections, but whether they were eligible would be decided by the government’s review committee.
Last week seven pro-democracy district councillors were disqualified, after being accused of making “invalid oaths”. Councillors said they were not given reasons for their disqualifications, which they labeled “arbitrary”.