Autonomous Chinese city records only 30% votes in the legislature polls – the lowest turnout in three decades.

Security was tight around the city, with 10,000 police and some 40,000 government election workers deployed.
Security was tight around the city, with 10,000 police and some 40,000 government election workers deployed. (AFP)

Hong Kong has registered a record low 30 percent voter turnout in the first legislature poll held under new rules, an election official said.

Hong Kong's top election official, Barnabas Fung, said on Sunday that only 1,350,680 of the 4,472,863 registered voters cast their ballots for city lawmakers, in what was the lowest turnout in three decades.

The previous turnout election was 58 percent, while the 43.6 percent in 2000 was the lowest since Britain returned the city to Chinese administration in 1997.

Security was tight around the city, with 10,000 police and some 40,000 government election workers deployed.

READ MORE: Hong Kong votes in 'patriots only' election

Criticism

Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam, among the first to vote, told reporters at a polling station in the suburban Mid-Levels district that the government "had not set any target" on the turnout rate.

Before Lam spoke, several protesters from the League of Social Democrats opposition group chanted demands nearby for full universal suffrage and waved a banner reading "forced to be silent ... spirit of freedom, vote with your conscience".

The election – in which only candidates screened by the government as "patriots" can run – has been criticised by some activists, foreign governments and rights groups while anti-Beijing parties are not participating.

"Clearly, the government's objective is to secure a high turnout. Otherwise it may delegitimise this election," said Jean-Pierre Cabestan, a professor of political science at Hong Kong's Baptist University.

The government on Saturday sent blanket text messages to Hong Kong residents urging people to vote, and some critics calling on people to stay away as a protest. 

It is a crime in Hong Kong to incite someone not to vote or to cast an invalid vote.

Hong Kong leaders say the poll is representative. They insist the overhaul, like the security law imposed last year, was needed to ensure stability after protracted protests that rocked the Asian financial hub in 2019.

READ MORE: Hong Kong elite votes for new 'patriots only' committee

Source: AFP