Hong Kong’s Pro-Democracy candidates poised to win majority

Bloomberg Hong Kong | Updated on November 25, 2019

The candidates took 201 of the 452 seats so far

Hong Kong’s pro-democracy candidates are set to win the majority of the seats for district council after a record number of people cast ballots on Sunday, the first opportunity to vote after months of increasingly violent protests.

The candidates took 201 of the 452 seats so far -- seven times more than those won by pro-establishment contenders, according to media reports. More than 2.94 million people, or roughly 71 per cent of the financial hubs electorate, had voted, according to Barnabas Fung, chairman of the election affairs committee. The previous high was 1.47 million in 2015.

The vote came at a time of unprecedented political polarisation in the city, with divisions hardening as the protests turn more violent. While ballots were cast for what is considered the lowest rung of the city’s government, the results show the support for the protesters goals of an independent inquiry into police abuses and meaningful elections.

The district councillors have few real powers, mostly advising the chief executive on matters like fixing up parks and organising community activities. Its elections have typically been plagued by low voter turnout and are not hugely competitive, compared with those for the Hong Kong’s more powerful Legislative Council.

The election unfolded peacefully despite concerns it could be delayed or disrupted by violence following unrest in the lead up, with voters facing unusually long lines at polling stations across the city. The final results are expected early Monday.

Among the early winners were Civil Human Rights Front organizer Jimmy Sham, who was previously hospitalized after he was attacked by hammer-wielding thugs, and Kelvin Lam, who is backed by activist Joshua Wong.

The high turnout rate did benefit the pro-democracy camp, Lam said. The result is like a referendum of the current administration, like a confidence vote.

Starry Lee, chairwoman of the Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong, the city’s largest pro-Beijing party, won her re-election.

District councillors help appoint 117 of the 1,200 electors who select the chief executive, which would give pro-democracy forces more choice over candidates who must still be approved by Beijing. The councillors are also directly elected by the public, making it a more democratic process than the contest for the Legislative Council, which has reserved seats for members of the financial hubs business community.

Its kind of a referendum on the government and everything that is happened over the past five months, said Chi-Jia Tschang, a senior director in the Hong Kong office of BowerGroup Asia, which advises companies on business and political risk in the region. People still want an opportunity to work within the system to have their voices heard. That is why there is so much focus on this.

The vote comes as dissatisfaction with the governments performance increases because of the ongoing protests triggered by legislation allowing extraditions to mainland China -- which was withdrawn amid the protests. Unhappiness with the administration rose to 80 per cent from just 40 per cent a year ago -- well before the unrest began -- according to surveys by the Hong Kong Public Opinion Research Institute.

I came out to vote because of the current situation in society now, Policy-making lacks transparency in every aspect, said Ken Lam, 19, a student and first-time voter. The government is ignoring voices in the public.

Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lams popularity, meanwhile, has fallen to records as peaceful marches five months ago evolved into violent clashes with police and the protest movement morphed into a wider push-back against Beijing’s grip.

People now realize that you can take things to the streets, but at a very high cost -- and there is a limit to ones energy, said Claudia Mo, a pro-democracy lawmaker in the city’s Legislative Council. You need changes from within this rotten system.

Published on November 25, 2019

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