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Western allies condemn Hong Kong election over ‘erosion’ of democracy

The EU, the G7 and Five Eyes leaders on Monday expressed their “grave concern” after Sunday’s Hong Kong’s Legislative Council Election (LegCo), where pro-China candidates claimed an overwhelming victory marked by a historic low turnout.

“The European Union regrets this violation of democratic principles and political pluralism,” the EU’s top diplomat Josep Borrell said in a statement.

Since the 2020 National Security Law and Hong Kong electoral reforms passed in March, amid intense pro-democracy protests against the bill, Hong Kong’s political system allows only “patriots” — according to Beijing’s definition — to run for office and criminalizes dissent.

All 90 seats but one were won by pro-establishment candidates, according to the South China Morning Post. Only 30 percent of Hong Kong’s 4.4 million eligible voters cast their ballots, the lowest turnout since Britain handed Hong Kong over to China in 1997.

G7 countries also raised concerns in a statement to express their “grave concern over the erosion of democratic elements” in Hong Kong. They added that the changes to the electoral system, which included the “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 more assertive statement, the Five Eyes countries — the U.S., the U.K. and Canada, which are also in the G7, plus Australia and New Zealand — said they were “gravely concerned at the wider chilling effect of the National Security Law and the growing restrictions on freedom of speech and freedom of assembly.”

“We urge the People’s Republic of China to act in accordance with its international obligations to respect protected rights and fundamental freedoms in Hong Kong,” they said.

Under the “one country, two systems” principle, Hong Kong, one of China’s Special Administrative Regions (SAR), can continue to have its own government system and benefit from a high level of autonomy. The EU and G7 leaders all hold the position that the National Security Law effectively puts in jeopardy Hong Kong’s special status, and called on China to abide by the principle and international commitment to democratic representation.

“The Central Government of China has firmly implemented the principle of One Country, Two Systems and the Basic Law, and supported the HKSAR in developing democracy in an orderly manner in accordance with law,” said Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Zhao Lijian on Monday, adding the Hong Kong’s election “was held in a smooth and orderly fashion in accordance with law.”

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