A police officer guard at a street during a protest against an election committee that will vote for the city's leader in Hong Kong. AP
Select Hong Kong residents voted for members of the Election Committee that choose the city's leader in polls Sunday that Chief Executive Carrie Lam called ``very meaningful'' as the first under reforms meant to ensure candidates with Beijing loyalty.
The Election Committee will select 40 of 90 lawmakers in the city's legislature during elections in December, as well as elect the Hong Kong leader during polls in March next year.
The nearly 4,900 voters representing different professions and industries who went to polls Sunday under a heavy police presence will choose among just 412 candidates for 364 seats in the 1,500-strong Election Committee. Other seats were uncontested or held by people chosen based on their titles.
``Today's Election Committee elections are very meaningful as it is the first elections held after we have improved the electoral system to ensure that only patriots can take office,'' Lam said.
It's not yet known if Lam will seek reelection in March. She said the new Election Committee will be broadly representative as it included more grassroots organizations and associations that represent Hong Kongers who live and work in mainland China.
In May, the legislature amended Hong Kong's electoral laws to ensure that only ``patriots'' - people who are loyal to China and the semi-autonomous territory - will rule the city. The committee also was expanded to 1,500 members, from 1,200, and the number of direct voters for committee seats was reduced from about 246,000 to less than 8,000.
The restructured electoral process ensures a vast majority of the Elections Committee will be largely pro-Beijing candidates, who are likely to choose a chief executive and nearly half of lawmakers who are aligned with the ruling Chinese Communist Party.
Sunday's vote was taking place at five polling stations heavily surrounded by police. Local newspaper South China Morning Post previously reported 6,000 police officers would be deployed to guard the polls, outnumbering the number of voters.
Results are expected Sunday night.
Four activists from pro-democracy political party League of Social Democrats staged a small protest near the polling station in the Wan Chai neighborhood. They laid out banners criticizing the ``small circle election'' as having a pretense of representing public opinion.
The four were stopped and searched by the police.