Hong Kongers vote in first election since 2014 protests

Beijing-friendly, pro-democracy camps compete in legislature election ahead of March vote for top post in territory

Hong Kongers vote in first election since 2014 protests

World Bulletin / News Desk

Hong Kongers flocked to polling stations Sunday to vote in the territory’s first election since the 11-week pro-democracy protests of 2014.

Around 3.8 million voters have an opportunity to select among 214 candidates -- many identified as Beijing-friendly, pan-democrat or members of newer “localist” movements associated with the Occupy protests -- running for 35 seats tied to geographical constituencies.

The pro-democracy camp -- which currently holds 27 seats -- is seeking to secure at least one-third of seats, or 24, in the 70-member legislature in order to have the ability to block legislation.

The vote is the last before a successor to Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying – who polls have shown as having a low popularity rating -- is elected in March for the top post in the former British colony.

The election campaigning has witnessed a fifth of incumbent lawmakers -- most of them veterans -- stepping aside as a younger generation joins the race.

Meanwhile, amid concerns that the Beijing-friendly camp may gain from the pro-democracy vote being split among pan-democrat candidates -- who have already been divided as those with a more traditional party stance and the newer “localists” -- at least six contenders have stepped down to increase their colleagues’ chances.

The youngest candidate in the race, 23-year-old Nathan Law Kwun-chung of the Demosisto party formed in April, expressed hope Sunday of the pan-democrats gaining at least three seats on Hong Kong Island.

“I’m confident that I’ll be able to win a seat. My support rate has been getting higher these days,” Law -- one of the student activist leaders of the 2014 protests -- told the South China Morning Post.

Demosisto has vowed to work toward self-determination in relations with Beijing. It proposes to hold a plebiscite in a decade asking Hong Kongers what kind of status they seek for the territory beyond 2047 -- the year marking the expiration of the “one country, two systems” formula under which the city has been governed since returning to Chinese rule in 1997.

Before Sunday’s vote, six candidates were disqualified for their deemed pro-independence stances after a new Electoral Affairs Commission ruling requiring those running to sign a document accepting Hong Kong as “an inalienable part of China".

The ruling has been challenged in the courts.

Among those who flocked to the polls Sunday was Jason Wun Hiu-yeung, a first-time voter, who told the Post that he believed a candidate “should at least have a degree and show that they have independent critical thinking”.

Outside a sports ground in Aberdeen, Wun -- who voted for the pan-democratic camp -- expressed interest in a new generation playing a role in politics, but reservation about supporting pro-independence candidates.

“It’s good that they will stand up for certain voices in the city, but at this moment asking for Hong Kong independence is just not feasible,” he said.

At least 5,000 police were mobilized Sunday, and earlier this week, more than 1,000 officers participated in training simulating riot scenarios.

Last weekend, hundreds of localist movement supporters gathered at Tamar Park, where they hoisted a large banner reading “Hong Kong _ _” -- which left room for interpretation, according to the Post.

The 2014 protests, which involved more than 100,000 people at their peak as people were angered by what was widely seen as excessive use of by police, were sparked by opposition to a Beijing-backed election reform package.

 

Güncelleme Tarihi: 04 Eylül 2016, 09:08
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