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How Hong Kong’s ‘Patriots Only’ Elections Bolster Beijing’s Grip

Only a few of all the candidates running this year have described themselves as “pro-democracy,” and they share one thing in common: They observe Beijing’s red lines.

They have avoided the sort of political stances that could lead to their disqualification or even imprisonment, such as calling for independence for Hong Kong or foreign sanctions against Hong Kong officials.

In Hong Kong’s new electoral landscape, the absence of the mainstream opposition has resulted in an odd political twist: Such outside candidates are being given some help by Beijing’s representatives and allies, who would in normal circumstances be their rivals. But the support is limited to helping them pass the rigorous nomination process to get on the ballot, not to winning votes on Election Day.

One pro-democracy candidate, Wong Sing-chi, said he believed it was important to fight for democracy by pursuing office, even if the system was flawed. If elected, he said, he would call for an amnesty for nonviolent protesters who have been sentenced to prison and a scaling back of the use of a national security law that has quashed dissent.

Mr. Wong, a former member of the Democratic Party, said he was asked twice this year by the Liaison Office of the Central People’s Government, Beijing’s increasingly assertive arm in the city, about whether he would run. But he said he made the decision to run on his own. After he did so, he was given a powerful boost by Lo Man-tuen, a prominent pro-Beijing voice on the election committee, who helped him secure enough nominations from the body to run.

“I am absolutely not their cup of tea, but they also want me to run so there will be some other voices,” said Mr. Wong.

Adrian Lau, who won a seat on the district councils during a pro-democracy wave in 2019, said he was running for the legislative council because some voters did not have faith in pro-Beijing politicians.

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