Officials, experts refute Western media's slander concerning successful District Council Election in Hong Kong
Election marks general completion of reshaping of HKSAR's governance structure, conducive for long-term stability: experts
Published: Dec 11, 2023 10:03 PM
The Hong Kong Special Administrative Region Chief Executive John Lee and his wife Janet Lee Lam cast their votes at the polling station at 2 Robinson Road, Raimondi College. Photo: Chen Qingqing/GT

The Hong Kong Special Administrative Region Chief Executive John Lee and his wife Janet Lee Lam cast their votes at the polling station at 2 Robinson Road, Raimondi College. Photo: Chen Qingqing/GT

Central government authorities extended warm congratulations on Monday to the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (HKSAR) for the successful completion of the 7th District Council (DC) Election, another important milestone unveiling a new chapter for local governance. 

While the city has been immersed in a joyful sentiment of moving forward, in a sharp contrast to the chaotic and dangerous DC election in 2019, some Western media outlets continued exaggerating the "record-low" turnout, which was rebuked by political figures and experts.

Early Monday morning, the Hong Kong and Macao Affairs Office of the State Council (HKMAO), the liaison office of the central government in Hong Kong, the Office for Safeguarding National Security of the central government in Hong Kong, and the Commissioner's Office of China's Foreign Ministry in Hong Kong extended their warm congratulations to the 176 district councilors from district committees and 88 local district councilors elected during the 7th DC Election.

A total of 1.19 million Hong Kong residents cast their votes on Sunday, equal to an accumulative turnout of 27.54 percent, according to official data. The voting process concluded at midnight on Sunday.

This was the first DC election to be held since electoral reform introduced the principle that only patriots should administer Hong Kong. 

The HKMAO said the new DC system effectively prevents anti-China disruptors in Hong Kong from entering the DC, and completely ends the attempts of anti-China disruptors in the city and the external forces behind them, such as the US and the West, to seize the governance of the HKSAR through elections. 

Under the new system, the DC can effectively play an active role as an "advisory and assisting administration" under the direct leadership and coordination of the SAR government, thereby opening up the "last mile" of regional governance in the SAR, strengthening administrative leadership, improving governance efficiency, responding to public concerns and promoting good governance. 

The restructured DC is also "the last piece of the puzzle" for the HKSAR government to implement the principle of only patriots administering the city, HKSAR CE John Lee said on Sunday after casting his vote.

"We have confidence that the new district council in the HKSAR will perform its duties in accordance with the law and that the newly elected district councilors can serve as a good bridge between the HKSAR government and the people of Hong Kong, helping the government improve the grassroots governance system and improve the efficiency of grassroots governance," a Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson said on Monday.  

Chan Chi Ho, a district councilor elected to the Tseung Kwan O North DC, told the Global Times that the DC election four years ago was actually a struggle between the patriotic camp and anti-China forces destabilizing Hong Kong, which was highly political. 

During this election, all candidates must be patriots. There was no debate over political stances during the election, so candidates could focus on comparisons in community services, political platforms and abilities, Chan said. 

"This is more helpful for community construction and residents' welfare."

Many residents are actually concerned about the facilities in the communities where they live. For example, adding zebra crossings, extending the time of pedestrian crossing lights, and adding seats on some walking trails. "Those are all very important to people's livelihood, and it is worth pushing the government to optimize them," Chan said. 

However, some Western media such as the BBC, Voice of America and the Financial Times focused on the low turnout of this year's election, calling it a "birdcage" election as there were no candidates from the opposition camp. 

The spokesperson of the Commissioner's Office of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Hong Kong expressed strong dissatisfaction on Monday with the malicious slander and smear campaign of the DC election by officials from the UK, the EU and the consulates general of certain countries in Hong Kong, noting it grossly interfered in Hong Kong affairs and China's internal affairs.

Some Western countries, whose own democratic systems are riddled with holes, attempt to interfere in the DC election in the HKSAR in the name of democracy. This seriously violates the principle of international law of non-interference in internal affairs and the basic norms of international relations, and seriously interferes with the normal and orderly development of democracy in Hong Kong, the spokesperson said.

"The campaign atmosphere in local elections has never been hot," Lau Siu-kai, a consultant from the Chinese Association of Hong Kong and Macao Studies who is also a senior policy advisor, told the Global Times on Monday. 

This time, the anti-China and disruptive elements in Hong Kong failed to "enter the gate" to run for election. After their supporters boycotted the election, the turnout rate of 27 percent under such negative circumstances could not be seen as low, Lau said. 

When talking about whether this turnout means that "the patriotic and Hong Kong camp does not form the majority of society in Hong Kong," Lau said that this is a short-term phenomenon. 

The power will have the opportunity to expand its support through political connection work and tangible achievements in HKSAR governance. It is believed that the turnout will continue to rise in the future, he said. 

Tam Yiu-chung, a vice-president of the Chinese Association of Hong Kong and Macao Studies, told the Global Times on Monday that the turnout in this year's DC election was "in line with expectations."

On Sunday evening, the computer systems at polling stations in several constituencies experienced malfunctions, causing some voters to be temporarily unable to vote. They later changed to manual distribution of votes, and the voting time was extended by one and a half hours to midnight. However, observers generally say that this "episode" will not have much impact on the election results or turnout.

The most important significance of this DC election is to further consolidate the paradigm of "patriots administering Hong Kong," marking the general completion of the reshaping of Hong Kong's governance structure, which will create favorable conditions for the city's long-term peace and stability, experts said.