FirstFT: Low voter turnout for Hong Kong’s ‘patriots only’ election

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Good morning. Hong Kong’s voters largely steered clear of a Beijing-imposed “patriots only” election yesterday, in a blow to official efforts to legitimise China’s vision for governance of the territory.

Officials extended voting by 1.5 hours, citing electronic system failure, after just 24.5 per cent of the territory’s 4.3mn-strong electorate had cast their ballots three hours before polls were due to close. The Hong Kong government said late on Sunday that the final turnout figure would be delayed by the electronic glitch.

The final turnout in the last district election in 2019, when opposition candidates won by a landslide, was 71.2 per cent. The previous record low turnout was 30.3 per cent in 1988.

Local officials had made exhaustive efforts to persuade citizens to vote under an electoral regime that in effect barred opposition candidates from standing. Turnout was seen as an important test of the government’s ability to demonstrate public support for the political order imposed by China’s President Xi Jinping. Here’s more on the patriots-only poll.

And here’s what I’m keeping tabs on today:

  • US: Former president Donald Trump is due to testify for a second time in the New York civil fraud trial that threatens his business empire.

  • UK: Prime Minister Rishi Sunak will give evidence to the British Covid inquiry, explaining his decisions as the country’s chancellor during the pandemic.

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Five more top stories

1. The value of the National Stock Exchange of India is poised to take Hong Kong’s spot among the world’s largest trading venues. Analysts say the rise of India’s NSE attests to investors’ optimism about the economic prospects of the world’s most populous country.

2. China’s state health insurance system lost an unprecedented 19mn subscribers in 2022, according to official data. Higher costs have put one of the world’s largest healthcare schemes out of reach for many people already struggling in a post-pandemic economic downturn. Analysts have warned that enrolment could fall further this year.

3. Israel’s national security adviser has warned that Israel “can no longer accept” the presence of Hizbollah forces on its northern border, and said it will have to “act” if they continue to pose a threat. Israeli forces have repeatedly exchanged fire with the powerful Iran-backed Lebanese militant group since the war with Hamas began.

4. Exclusive: Nearly half of American voters think the US is spending too much on aid for Ukraine, according to a poll that underscores the fragility of domestic support just as Volodymyr Zelenskyy prepares to visit Washington to lobby for more funding. The latest FT-Michigan Ross poll found that opposition was particularly pronounced among Republicans, with 65 per cent saying the US was spending too much in Ukraine.

5. Maverick libertarian economist Javier Milei has promised deep cuts in spending after being sworn in as president of Argentina amid the country’s worst economic crisis in decades. Milei was expected to send draft legislation outlining his emergency economic measures to congress over the coming days, where it will face a difficult reception.

See also  Dollar hit a new three-month peak against majors on Friday

News in-depth

Mahua Moitra © Sahiba Chawdhary/FT

India’s lower house of parliament has expelled Mahua Moitra following an investigation into what the female opposition MP said were trumped-up allegations. Analysts said the expulsion of Moitra, a trenchant critic of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the powerful Adani conglomerate, highlighted the difficult position of women in the country’s male-dominated politics. It also shows how Adani has become one of India’s most divisive political issues.

We’re also reading . . . 

  • The Big Read: Wealthy university alumni have campaigned about rising hostility towards Jews on US campuses. The controversy has already forced one university president from office.

  • US-China relations: The challenge posed by China has wreaked havoc with the market fundamentalism that once defined Republican orthodoxy on trade and finance, writes Oren Cass.

  • Record sports deal: Shohei Ohtani, the star baseball player from Japan, has signed a 10-year contract with the Los Angeles Dodgers worth $700mn.

Chart of the day

A surge in Chinese steel production has driven a sharp rally in iron ore prices, defying investors’ expectations that China’s property crisis would mean lower prices for the commodity.

Line chart of $ per tonne showing Iron ore prices hit year-to-date highs on steady Chinese demand

Take a break from the news

Sean Turnell, the Australian economist jailed by the Myanmar junta, discusses working with Aung San Suu Kyi, the souring of a democratic dream — and the 650 days he spent in prison. Read Lunch with the FT. 2943 4eeb 979c 65dee23391da
© James Ferguson

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