g 7 condemns erosion of democracy in hong kong polls - G-7 condemns erosion of democracy in Hong Kong polls

HONG KONG (AFP) – World powers on Monday (Dec 20) condemned Hong’s Kong tightly vetted legislature vote, saying rules imposed by Beijing that reduced directly elected seats and controlled who could stand had eroded democracy in the Chinese territory.

China has overseen a sweeping crackdown in Hong Kong in response to huge and often violent democracy protests two years ago.

It imposed a national security law that criminalised much dissent and introduced political rules that vet the loyalty of anyone standing for office.

The first public vote under this new order was held on Sunday for the city’s legislature, with a historic low turnout recorded.

Figures showed just 30 per cent of the electorate cast ballots, the lowest rate both of the period since the city’s 1997 handover to China and the British colonial era.

The foreign ministers of the Group of Seven expressed “grave concern over the erosion of democratic elements” in Hong Kong’s electoral system after the poll.

The new vetting process “to severely restrict the choice of candidates on the ballot paper undermined Hong Kong’s high degree of autonomy” under the principle of One Country, Two Systems agreed for the handover of the territory from Britain to China in 1997.

The foreign ministers of Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Britain and United States called on China “to restore confidence in Hong Kong’s political institutions and end the unwarranted oppression of those who promote democratic values and the defence of rights and freedoms”.

The European Union’s Foreign Policy Chief Josep Borrell said in a statement that the poll was “yet another step in the dismantling of the One Country Two Systems’ principle”, and called for a “high degree of autonomy as well as respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms, democratic principles and the rule of law” in Hong Kong.

In an earlier statement, Britain, the US, Canada, Australia and New Zealand had rebuked the new system in even stronger language, saying “these changes eliminated any meaningful political opposition”.

“We also remain gravely concerned at the wider chilling effect of the National Security Law and the growing restrictions on freedom of speech and freedom of assembly, which are being felt across civil society,” the five Western allies added.

China called on the people of Hong Kong to embrace the new rules that it says will restore stability and root out disruptive “anti-China” elements for good.