Record turnout for Hong Kong district council elections
Some voters hope higher turnout will benefit pro-democracy camp
HONG KONG Few incidents of violence, record turnout.
This described Hong Kong yesterday as government data showed that 2.6 million people had voted by 7.30pm in the district council elections viewed as a test of support for chief executive Carrie Lam following six months of pro-democracy protests. About 1.47 million voted in the last district elections four years ago.
The run-up to the elections was marked by attacks on candidates, with one stabbed and wounded and another having part of his ear bitten off.
Beijing-backed Mrs Lam pledged that her government would listen "more intensively" to the views of district councils.
"I hope this kind of stability and calm is not only for today's elections, but to show that everyone does not want Hong Kong to fall into a chaotic situation again," she said.
The protests started over a now-withdrawn extradition Bill that would have allowed people to be sent to China for trial, but they rapidly evolved into calls for full democracy.
Ms Ming Lee, 26, who works in event production, hoped the higher turnout would benefit the pro-democracy camp battling seats that were once uncontested and dominated by pro-Beijing candidates.
"I hope this vote can counter the voice of the pro-establishment, to bring in more voices from the democrats," she said.
"The social problems encouraged people to vote and to focus on political issues."
The district councils control some spending and decide on issues such as recycling and public health. A record 1,104 candidates were vying for 452 seats, and a record 4.1 million people had enrolled to vote.
If the pro-democracy campaigners gain control, they could secure six seats on Hong Kong's semi-representative Legislative Council and 117 seats on the 1,200-member panel that selects its chief executive.
Mr Jimmy Sham, a candidate for the Civil Human Rights Front, which organised some of the pro-democracy rallies, said: "We don't know yet, at the end of the day, if the democrats can win a majority. But I hope our Hong Kong citizens can vote for the future of Hong Kong."
Restaurant manager Jeremy Chan, 55, saw the elections as offering Beijing supporters a chance to share their opinions.
Yesterday was also the seventh day of a stand-off at Polytechnic University, whose campus has been surrounded by police as some protesters hide out on the grounds.
"The district council elections is almost like a referendum on recent months of social activity. My personal liberty to vote has been violated," said the protester, who fears being seized by police if he tries to escape from the campus. - REUTERS