Hong Kong Elections: How ‘Patriots Only’ Bolsters Beijing’s Grip

“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,” she told Global Times, a newspaper controlled by the Communist Party. “Therefore, I think the turnout rate does not mean anything.”

Residents’ limited enthusiasm had been apparent throughout the day. Volunteers and candidates made last-minute pitches at street stands outside subway stations, handing out fliers as loudspeakers blared prerecorded slogans, but most passers-by ignored them.

At polling stations across the city, lines were few and far between. At one station on the western side of Hong Kong island on Sunday afternoon, three police officers stood watch as pedestrians streamed past, hardly any stopping to enter.

More than 10,000 police officers were deployed across the city, officials said, as well as 900 staff members of the Independent Commission Against Corruption, the government body overseeing the ban on calling for vote boycotts.

Ling Lui, 26, who showed up to vote with her father at a polling station in eastern Hong Kong Island, said the “patriots only” election would benefit Hong Kong. She was looking, she said, for a candidate who would “love Hong Kong, dare to speak out and be active.”

Paul Lai, 50, was less confident. He had to wait in line to vote in previous elections, he said after casting his ballot, but this year, there were just two or three people inside his polling station. He attributed the lower turnout in part to the candidates, many of whom he said were new and unfamiliar faces.

Asked how he chose who to vote for, he said, “Nothing, really. Just look at their platform, if they have one.” (Some of the candidates did not release platforms or had no social media presence.) He continued: “There’s nothing you can do. Just pick one at random.”