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Hong Kong local elections: Protesters hope poll will send message to China

Source BBC

There has been high early turnout as voters surged to the polls for Hong Kong’s district council elections.

Pro-democracy protest groups hope the vote will send a message to the Chinese government after five months of unrest.

Long queues formed outside polling stations amid fears that they might be closed by authorities if violence disrupted the vote.

The election is being seen as a test of support for Hong Kong’s embattled Chief Executive Carrie Lam.

In the run-up to the election, pro-democracy protest groups had urged people not to cause disruption. No trouble has been reported so far.

A record 4.1 million people have registered to vote – more than half the population of 7.4 million.

More than 400 councillors are due to be elected to Hong Kong’s district council.

Pro-democracy campaigners hope they will be able to increase their representation on the council, which traditionally has some influence in choosing the city’s chief executive.

Pro-Beijing candidates are urging voters to support them in order to express frustration at the upheaval caused by continuous clashes between protesters and police.

What’s happening?

Polls opened at 07:30 local time (23:30 GMT) on Sunday.

By 11:30 just over one million people had voted (24.37%) compared to 340,048 (10.89%) within the same timescale in the last such elections in 2015. In those elections only 3.1 million people registered to vote.

More than 1,000 candidates are running for 452 district council seats which, for the first time, are all being contested. A further 27 seats are allocated to representatives of rural districts.

Currently, pro-Beijing parties hold the majority of these seats.

Police were seen outside some polling stations and on the streets but correspondents said they kept a low profile.

Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam speaks to the press after casting her vote during the district council elections in Hong Kong on November 24, 2019
Chief Executive Carrie Lam welcomed the “peaceful environment” for the vote

“Facing the extremely challenging situation, I am pleased to say… we have a relatively calm and peaceful environment for (the) election today,” Carrie Lam said after voting.

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