Hong Kong District Poll Shows Huge Public Support For Pro-Democracy Movement


2019-11-25
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hongkong-poll.jpg People gather near a police-cordoned-area to show support for a small group of protesters barricaded for over a week inside the Hong Kong Polytechnic University campus, Nov. 25, 2019.
AFP

Millions of voters in Hong Kong delivered a stunning rebuke to Beijing and the administration of chief executive Carrie Lam with a landslide victory for pro-democracy candidates across the city's 18 District Councils as vote counting was wrapped up on Monday.

Pro-democracy candidates won 388 seats, an overwhelming majority of the 452 council seats up for grabs, after 71 percent of registered voters -- nearly half the city's population -- turned out to vote on Sunday. The vote also delivered control of 17 out of 18 districts to pro-democracy groups.

As a result, pro-democracy groups will control 117 seats on the 1,200-member electoral college that chooses the city's chief executive.

Democratic Party lawmaker Ted Hui, who also won a District Council seat, said the result should be interpreted as meaning that the people of Hong Kong overwhelmingly back calls for more democracy, and by extension, the protest movement that has gripped the city since early June.

"The vote result means that people are for democracy," Hui told government broadcaster RTHK. "People are for the anti-extradition movement. And people are still with the protesters," he said.

"I see myself as one of the protesters, and now people voted for me, they voted for protesters. That is the message," he said.

Student leader Jordan Pang, who saw off a pro-Beijing heavyweight Horace Cheung to win his seat on the District Council, called on Lam's administration to heed the five demands of the protest movement.

"The government ... have to face up to the fact that the majority of the Hong Kong people support the five demands," he said. "They have to change the system. We must have a democratic government," Pang said.

Meanwhile, relative newcomer to politics Cary Lo beat pro-government lawmaker Junius Ho -- who has been linked to widely reviled attacks by triad-linked mobsters on protesters and passers-by inside Yuen Long MTR station on July 21.

'Rebel city'

Wu Qiang, former politics lecturer at Beijing's prestigious Tsinghua University, said the election result showed that Lam's administration had utterly failed.

"It also proves that they regard ... Hong Kong as a rebel city," he said. "This election proves that the majority of Hong Kong citizens are actively ... safeguarding their freedom and pursuing democracy."

But he didn't think it would change the ruling Chinese Communist Party's hard-line approach, however.

"They will continue to clamp down in Hong Kong," Wu said. "On the other hand, there could be ... some so-called economic integration ... with the Greater Bay Area [of neighboring mainland Chinese cities].

This is entirely possible."

Lam on Monday said the government would respect the result of the elections, noting that they were largely carried out in a "peaceful and orderly manner."

"Quite a few are of the view that the results reflect people's dissatisfaction with the current situation and the deep-seated problems in society," Lam said. "The [Hong Kong] government will listen to the opinions of members of the public, [and] humbly and seriously reflect."

Political commentator and pro-democracy campaigner Joseph Cheng said the pro-Beijing share of the vote hadn't decreased significantly, however, but was rather subsumed by the first-past-the-post electoral system used to return district councilors.

He said the complex proportional representation system and only partially direct voting system currently used in Legislative Council (LegCo) elections would ensure that democrats couldn't easily win control of that body.

"The democrats won mainly on the back of very high voter turnout," Cheng said. "Under the current system, it is not possible to get more than 70 percent of seats in a LegCo election."

Poly U siege grinds on

As the election results emerged, an unknown number of protesters remained besieged by police inside Hong Kong's Polytechnic University (Poly U), with some newly elected district councilors opening negotiations with police for them to be allowed to leave without facing arrest for "rioting."

Pro-democracy politicians called on the government to withdraw the police immediately, and to allow emergency relief workers and medical staff to enter the campus for humanitarian reasons.

The statement, signed by around 60 pro-democracy figures, also called on Lam to meet the five demands of the protest movement.

Lam has withdrawn legal amendments that would have allowed extradition to mainland China -- a plan that sparked the movement in the first place -- but protesters also want fully democratic elections to LegCo and for the post of chief executive, an amnesty for the thousands of people arrested since protests began, an end to the use of the term "rioting," and an independent inquiry into police violence.

Lam and her officials have repeatedly ruled out meeting any of the other demands.

Police said on Monday that there are still dozens of people in the Poly U campus, and pledged to send in a negotiating team alongside school principals and social workers with no arrests to be made.

Poly U and the University of Science and Technology both issued statements calling for an end to the police presence on their campuses.

Reported by Lau Siu-fung, Tam Siu-yin, Lu Xi, Qiao Long, Gao Feng, Man Hoi-tsan and Lee Tsz-tsz for RFA's Mandarin and Cantonese Services. Translated and edited by Luisetta Mudie.

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