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Hong Kong slashes directly elected seats in local polls, critics say move is a blow to democracy
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Hong Kong slashes directly elected seats in local polls, critics say move is a blow to democracy

Lawmakers on Thursday clearly voted to overtake district-level elections by awfully lessening the number of directly elected seats in what activists say is a blow to democracy. The move, critics said, took out some of the last remainders of democratic freedoms in the city. Under the new regulations, only 88 seats will be directly elected by people, down from 452 seats in an election that saw a landslide victory by the democracy camp in 2019.

The number of overall seats would also be cut down from 479 to 470. The transformations could further restrained the democratic conflict in Hong Kong, with a China-enforced national safety law having already resulted in the arrests of former lawmakers and district councillors, and the disbandment of many democratic political parties, including the Civic Party. After months of anti-government objections in 2019, China enforced a national security law in 2020 to criminalise what it understands subversion, secessionism, terrorism or collusion with foreign forces, with penalties of up to life imprisonment.

Mr Lemon Wong, the vice chairman of Tuen Mun District Council and one of the few left democrats, said the changes meant “the pro-democracy camp are naturally gone in the election”. “I will try my best to make the most of the remaining six months of my career as a councillor, because it will be tough to have a next time,” he added.  China had pledged universal suffrage as its main goal for Hong Kong in its mini-constitution, the Basic Law. Pro-democracy politicians won 388 out of 452 district council seats during the last district council election in 2019, taking almost 90 per cent of the seats and embarassing the pro-Beijing camp.