Hong Kong election results spark new wave of US, G7 criticism for China

by mcardinal

Willie R. Tubbs, FISM News


The United States and its allies in the G7 issued multiple statements outlining their concerns over the validity of election results from Hong Kong where a single party swept to power in what was deemed a “patriots only” legislative election.

As first reported by Reuters, pro-Beijing and pro-establishment candidates cruised to victory, with some candidates shouting “guaranteed win” at a vote counting center. The election also saw a record low voter turnout, about 30%, which is about half the normal participation.

In a joint statement, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the United Kingdom and the United States cited worries over an “erosion of democratic elements” in Hong Kong’s electoral process. Hong Kong, which is a part of the People’s Republic of China is, on paper, supposed to function under a different system of governance than that of China.

“The package of changes to the electoral system introduced earlier this year in Hong Kong,” the G7 statement reads, “including reduction of the number of directly elected seats and establishment of a new vetting process to severely restrict the choice of candidates on the ballot paper, undermined Hong Kong’s high degree of autonomy under the ‘One Country, Two Systems’ principle.”

In a separate statement, the G7 nations criticized China for jailing or exiling members of an opposition party, thereby severely limiting the chance for divergent political viewpoints to succeed on election day.

“Since handover [from British control in 1997], candidates with diverse political views have contested elections in Hong Kong,” the statement reads. “Yesterday’s election has reversed this trend. 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.”

The G7 nations also expressed concerns about a “wide chilling effect” China has foisted upon Hong Kong through growing restrictions on free speech, freedom of the press, freedom of assembly, trade unions, and human rights organizations.  

China said the Hong Kong election was legitimate and struck what has become a familiar, defiant stance against the West.

“Voters in Hong Kong have fought back against the smears and slanders targeting the legitimacy of the new electoral system with their actions,” Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Zhao Lijian said during his regular press conference Monday. “There are several reasons for the lower voter turnout in the geographical constituencies this year, including the impact of the pandemic and the interference and sabotage by anti-China, destabilizing forces and external forces.”

Monday, the PRC also released white papers for a project titled, “Hong Kong: Democratic Progress Under the Framework of One Country, Two Systems”, which Zhao called “an important document released at a critical moment in Hong Kong’s democratic progress.” These white papers reinforce China’s stance that “patriots administering Hong Kong” will be the pathway to democracy.

Zhao went on to say that Britain had deprived Hong Kong of democracy and that “external forces” had in recent years “distorted the connotations of democracy, thwarted Hong Kong’s democratic progress, and caused serious setbacks to the development of Hong Kong’s democracy.”

The overarching message from China has been that Western opinions on the handling of its “Special Administrative Region (SAR)” are unwelcome.

“I’d like to stress that Hong Kong is part of China,” Zhao said. “How to develop democracy in the SAR is purely China’s domestic affair. Whether Hong Kong’s democratic system is good or not should be judged by the Chinese people, including Hong Kong compatriots.”

Critics, though, have accused China of staging farcical, illegitimate elections and whittling away at Hong Kong’s liberty.

The United States response was not limited to mere statements. The departments of State and Treasury submitted a report to Congress which listed the names of ten people who the departments believe have subverted the freedom of the people of Hong Kong and, by extension, violated international agreements.

“The United States is concerned by the People’s Republic of China’s (PRC) continued efforts to undermine the democratic institutions in Hong Kong and erode Hong Kong’s autonomy in its judiciary, civil service, press, and academic institutions, among other areas that are key to a stable and prosperous Hong Kong,” Ned Price, a spokesperson for the Department of State said in a statement.

Additionally, the Department of Treasury designated the ten identified people as “Specially Designated Nationals and Blocked Persons,” meaning their U.S. assets have been frozen and that United States people and businesses are prohibited from having dealings with them. Price said that foreign financial institutions that knowingly interact with these individuals would be subjected to sanctions.