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Hong Kong Legislature Welcomes New Pro-China Members

A newly-elected pro-Beijing lawmaker, center left, takes her oath in front of Chief Executive Carrie Lam, center right, during an oath-taking ceremony for legislative council members in Hong Kong, Jan. 3, 2022.

Ninety new members of Hong Kong’s legislature were sworn in Monday just weeks after elections that effectively barred pro-democracy candidates.

Pro-Beijing and establishment lawmakers won 89 of the 90 seats in the December 19 elections, the first since China amended Hong Kong’s electoral laws to reduce the number of directly elected lawmakers and vet candidates to ensure only those loyal to China can run. The other newly elected lawmaker is independent and not explicitly pro-establishment.

The new laws expanded the assembly from 70 to 90 seats, but reduced the proportion of directly elected seats from 40 to 20. The other 70 seats under the new system were reserved for candidates picked by influential members of industry groups and by a committee of Beijing loyalists.

Only a third of Hong Kong voters cast their ballots in last month’s elections. The low turnout rate came amid high-profile opposition figures calling for either boycotting the election or casting blank votes, which has become illegal under the new election rules.

The semi-autonomous territory was rocked by pro-democracy protests in 2014 and 2019 that were crushed by security forces, followed by the imposition of a sweeping national security law that silenced most of the city's opposition activists and led others to flee abroad.

The vote was originally scheduled to take place in September last year, but was postponed with authorities citing public health risks due to the pandemic.

Some information for this report came from The Associated Press and the Agence France-Presse.