Hong Kong kicks off first 'patriots only' election

Hong Kong held its first-ever political race since Beijing changed its electoral system, to ensure only 'patriots' govern the city.

Five polling stations across Hong Kong were heavily guarded by police, while pro-democracy candidates were nearly absent from the ballot.

Sunday's (September 19) polls saw less than than 5,000 people cast ballots - mostly from pro-establishment circles - to vote for candidates in the Election Committee.

That's a 1,500-strong body that picks Hong Kong's next leader - the Chief Executive, next March, and fields 40 of its own as lawmakers in the 90-seat legislature.

The electoral overhaul, announced by Beijing and passed in Hong Kong in May, significantly reduces democratic representation in institutions, and introduces a new vetting mechanism for candidates and winners.

The make-up of the electoral college itself has also changed, scrapping memberships for community-level district councillors, dominated by democrats, while adding more than 500 seats for pro-China business, political and grassroots groups.

Hong Kong's current leader, Carrie Lam, said on Sunday that the city's electoral framework was now improved.

Changes to Hong Kong's political system is the latest in a string of moves that have placed the international financial hub on an authoritarian path, including the national security law that punishes anything Beijing deems as subversion, secession, terrorism or collusion with foreign forces.

Most prominent pro-democracy activists and politicians are now in jail or have fled.

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