There have been concerns that the electoral reforms imposed by Beijing would make the city’s polls less democratic and representative. If the revamped electoral base to return the Election Committee that chooses the chief executive and some lawmakers is any reference, such worries may only deepen. Voter registration figures are down by 97 per cent and the influence of the opposition-affiliated sectors substantially diluted by those of the newly added Beijing-friendly groups. To what extent such “elections with Hong Kong characteristics” affects the perception of legitimacy and public participation will continue to be a matter of local and international concern. Just weeks ago, the government was still saying some 20,000 to 30,000 people would be eligible to vote in September’s Election Committee polls. Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor later revised the estimate to just 10,000, but remained upbeat with an expected registration rate of over 90 per cent. However, the register comprises just 7,891 voters, a mere fraction of the 246,000 registered in the last race in 2016. Journalists had a hard time reporting the details, as the electoral authorities only allowed them to view the register without taking notes or recordings. The selection of the city’s leader has long been seen by some as a small-circle affair, chosen by a 1,200-member body returned by a quarter of a million voters in a city of 7.5 million people. The ever shrinking electorate has further reinforced that perception. The authorities argued that the revamped base was more representative by incorporating some national bodies and district groups . But many more individual voters across sectors that are traditionally the stronghold of the opposition camp have also been disenfranchised. More than two-thirds of the electorate will be corporate voters this time, compared to less than 7 per cent previously. Among the newly added bodies are community groups that are not known for being actively involved in public affairs. The smallest subsector only has 18 corporate voters. To those who believe in free and open elections, the polls may look like a sham. But the political reality is that Beijing is determined to shut out “unpatriotic” figures from governance bodies, via a restrictive electoral framework and other administrative measures. The State Council’s Hong Kong and Macau Affairs Office director, Xia Baolong, stressed the bottom line was that the city’s leaders and lawmakers must be “firm patriots”, with a problem-solving mindset and a strategic vision to defend China’s sovereignty. How to conduct an election that is meaningful and relevant to the people will be closely watched.