'Milestone moment': Voting begins in HK for first LegCo election after electoral reform
Published: Dec 19, 2021 08:36 AM Updated: Dec 19, 2021 01:26 PM
Photo:China News Service

Photo:China News Service

The highly expected Hong Kong Legislative Council (LegCo) election, the first since the electoral reform ensuring patriots governing Hong Kong, started on Sunday morning. Some local residents told the Global Times that they got up very early to cast their votes as the new election signaled a new era for local governance. 

At least 10 senior officials including the Chief Executive of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (HKSAR) Carrie Lam and former chief executive Leung Chun-ying cast their votes on Sunday morning. The officials also encouraged other registered voters to vote as soon as possible, as electing qualified lawmakers will make Hong Kong's future better. 

Hong Kong has experienced the impact of the yearlong social turmoil and the COVID-19 pandemic, I also feel that people are looking forward to a rapid resumption of economic development and that the LegCo can monitor the government's work on people's livelihoods, Lam said outside a polling station after voting, according to local media Weiwenpo

"Today's election is the first one since the electoral reform took effect, which has great significance. My husband and I voted this morning to fulfil our responsibility as citizens, which is also casting the vote of confidence for Hong Kong's future," Lam told reporters. 

Other senior officials also fanned out to vote across Hong Kong, including Chief Secretary John Lee, Secretary for the Civil Service Patrick Nip, Secretary for Security Chris Tang and Financial Secretary Paul Chan. 

We have to ensure that some forces intending to disrupt this election will fail, and that is why we all need to come out to vote, said Lee at a polling station, Hong Kong media reported. 

Nip also urged the public to actively cast the ballot, noting that the civil servants will keep their posts and make the best voting arrangements and procedures.

Leung Chun-ying, vice-chairman of the National Committee of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference, said on Sunday morning that the background and political level of more than 100 candidates in the LegCo election are fully representative in accordance with the Basic Law. 

"I believe that the LegCo formed by the public voting will better serve the public," Leung said. 

The Global Times talked with a number of registered voters on Monday morning, and most of them believed that it would be a smooth election without the interruption and sabotage of radical opposition forces. Under the national security law for Hong Kong and the electoral reform, anti-China and anti-government forces have been ruled out from running for local governance, a fundamental line for ensuring "one country, two systems" being carried out in a correct way.

Jacky Ko Chung-kit, a 41-year-old Hong Kong online opinion leader, told the Global Times that he went to a polling station at around 8:30 am, and it only took about six minutes to finish the voting process. He added that the polling stations have adopted for the first time electronic ballot distribution, which is very convenient. 

"We can also enjoy free bus and tram rides, I also saw many banners for canvassing on the streets. People are in high spirits," he said. 

Jack Ng, principal learner of Pui Kiu Middle School, cast his vote in his neighborhood at around 8:30 am. "The line was shorter than previous years," he said. 

Still, including myself, my friends have strong willingness to vote, as we all hope that the election would serve as a new page for Hong Kong, Ng told the Global Times. 

While some foreign media outlets are focusing on a possible low turnout in this LegCo election -- a major way that some foreign and local observers use to defy the legitimacy of the election -- Lam said on Sunday that the government has not set any turnout target. "We will not predict the turnout," she said. 

Lam told the Global Times in an earlier interview that the turnout rate is affected by many factors. 

"There is a saying that when the government is doing well and its credibility is high, the voter turnout will decrease because the people do not have a strong demand to choose different lawmakers to supervise the government. Therefore, I think the turnout rate does not mean anything," she said in the interview. 

According to the official election website, the turnout rate at 11:30 am was 9.35 percent, with more than 418,000 residents voting in the first three hours.

Chan, the financial secretary, also described the election as an important milestone following the electoral reform, after voting in the morning.