Why Hong Kong's upcoming election will be different from usual

On Sunday the polls will open in what has been dubbed the 'patriots-only' election - all candidates were vetted and made to swear an oath of allegiance to the state, ITV News Asia Correspondent Debi Edward reports

It has been dubbed the ‘patriots-only’ election. For the straightforward reason that each of 153 candidates have gone through a rigorous vetting process and made to swear an oath of allegiance to the State.

New electoral rules have also seen the number of directly elected seats reduced from 50 to just 20. The remaining 70 candidates that make up the 90 legislature seats will be chosen by pro-Beijing committees.

The changes introduced by Beijing to the voting system have the patent purpose of preventing any dissenting or opposition voices from gaining office. In the 2019 District Council elections democrats took 90% of the 500 seats. That landslide partly prompted the reforms.

Hardly necessary now in fact, because most democratic candidates have either been jailed, disqualified or are in exile.

In February this year, 47 pro-democracy politicians and activists were arrested under the National Security Law introduced last year. Thirty-three of them remain in prison.

They were accused of "plotting subversion" for campaigning against the government. Among them is Joshua Wong, who is facing a series of charges that could see him spend several years, if not decades, behind bars.

It is hard to believe that just two years ago more than a million people took to the streets of Hong Kong protesting further Chinese control.

Today it is a city where even sharing a post online about spoiled ballots can get you arrested. So far, seven people have been detained for "inciting the public" to boycott the election.

Two international newspapers – the Wall Street Journal and the Sunday Times – have also been warned for articles which were deemed to have breached a law which makes it an office to encourage a person not to vote or submit an invalid vote.

Hongkongers will vote for the first time since election laws were changed Credit: AP

It is for that reason that when we tried to ask people on the streets for their opinion about Sunday's poll most would not stop to talk. Something which never used to be an issue in Hong Kong.

Those who did talk to us and said they would vote told us they would do so to uphold their democratic right. One woman said she had to vote, even though there was nobody she wanted to vote for. Apart from the apathy, what also stood out was some anger. A young man almost spat into our microphone describing the elections as a lie.

In a recent poll, voter turnout was estimated to be around 50%, it is usually around 80%. People in Hong Kong cherish their democratic rights.

The Chinese Government argues that the election reforms will introduce "a new pattern of good governance". They have hailed the system as a democracy with Chinese characteristics designed to fit the one country, two systems.

The Beijing official in charge of Hong Kong Affairs said that "for too long Hong Kong has been blindly following a western-style democracy." He blamed that "blind pursuit" for the protests and violence which engulfed Hong Kong in 2019. Critics of the elections have been called ignorant, arrogant and prejudiced.

One prominent pro-Beijing candidate, Regina Ip, told us that young people need to accept that regime change is not possible in Hong Kong, because Hong Kong is part of China.

Don’t expect any upsets when the results roll in on Sunday night. This is a Communist-style democracy, where it doesn’t matter who you vote for, the outcome will be the same.