Macau democracy camp loses ground after legislative vote

·1-min read
Macau's pro-democracy camp lost ground in the latest legislative election (AFP/Anthony WALLACE)

Macau's pro-democracy camp lost further ground in the Chinese gambling hub's legislature, according to preliminary results Monday from an election marred by low turnout and a ban on "disloyal" candidates.

Macau, like neighbouring Hong Kong, is a "semi-autonomous" Chinese territory, and the central government in Beijing has been tightening control in both with a more direct role in recent years.

Authorities in Macau had disqualified 21 candidates -- most of them from the pro-democracy camp -- from Sunday's election on national security grounds.

They were accused of disloyalty to China after they commemorated the victims of the 1989 Tiananmen Square crackdown and honoured rights activist and Beijing critic Liu Xiaobo.

Of the 33 seats in Macau's legislature, 14 are directly elected and a preliminary count on Monday showed the pro-democracy camp won just two -- half of what it got in the last vote in 2017.

The other 19 lawmakers include 12 indirectly chosen from professional sectors and seven appointed by Macau's chief executive.

The general turnout of just over 42 percent was the lowest since the former Portuguese colony was handed over to China in 1999, but authorities dismissed suggestions that it was caused by the disqualification of pro-democracy candidates.

The president of Macau's Electoral Affairs Committee, Tong Hio Fong, blamed the low level of participation on coronavirus restrictions, hot weather and heavy rain on Sunday.

The disqualification of pro-democracy candidates in Macau follows similar rulings in Hong Kong, where Chinese authorities have moved to crush dissent and the city's pro-democracy movement with a sweeping national security law and a radical electoral overhaul.

su/qan/leg

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