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Hong Kong Election: Pro-Democracy Candidates Surge Amid Record Turnout; Protest Organizer Wins Seat

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Via Zerohedge

Pro-democracy candidates are scoring overwhelming victories amid the city’s first district council elections since anti-government protests erupted earlier this year, according to SCMP.

Lines at 7am for Hong Kong district elections (via @mnandita)

According to SCMP, 140 of the first 160 seats declared have gone to pro-democracy candidates. There are a total of 452 seats, of which nearly 69% remain undeclared as of this report.

The wins come amid a record number of Hong Kongers turning out to cast ballots, according to Bloomberg.

More than 2.94 million people, or roughly 71.2% of the financial hub’s electorate, had voted, according to Barnabas Fung, chairman of election affairs committee. The previous highest turnout was 1.47 million in 2015. Residents faced unusually long lines at polling stations across the city as they came out to vote in the election.

The vote unfolded peacefully despite concerns it could be delayed or disrupted by violence following unrest in the leadup. More than 6,000 complaints relating to the election were received, Fung said. Logistical issues including the long lines at the polling stations topped the list, he added. Results are expected early Monday. –Bloomberg

“There’s so many people it’s brought tears to my eyes,” said Ng Siu-hong, who represents the city’s Central and Western District. “It’s good for me but more importantly good for democracy.”

Also scoring pro-democracy victories were Civil Human Rights Front organizer Jimmy Sham, who was attacked with hammers and hospitalized last month while eating lunch at a local restaurant. Also elected was Kelvin Lam who is supported by activist Joshua Wong.

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Jimmy Sham

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

Some candidates came under attack and the city was paralyzed by days of chaos in the weeks leading up to the election, with schools suspended, protesters disrupting commutes and riot police laying siege to a university. Police dispatched at least two officers clad in riot gear to each polling booth Sunday.

“Recent social events make people want to voice their opinions,” said a 22-year-old voter who gave his name as Mr. Yip, as he stood in a line to vote that stretched some 500 meters down central Caine Road under the watchful eye of four riot police. “The people’s voices won’t necessarily be reflected in the governments’ real life decisions and our power is quite weak, but it is still our right to show our voices.” —Bloomberg

As Bloomberg notes, Hong Kong is extremely polarized right now amid increasingly violent protests. While most residents support the goals of the movement – including an independent inquiry into policy abuses, some have become divided over tactics employed by more extreme factions. 

“It’s kind of a referendum on the government and everything that’s happened over the past five months,” said Chi-Jia Tschang, a senior director in the Hong Kong office of BowerGroupAsia, which advises companies on business and political risk in the region (via BBG), “People still want an opportunity to work within the system to have their voices heard. That’s why there’s so much focus on this.”

That said, Sunday’s election of what are ultimately lower-ranking bureaucrats be more of a harbinger for what’s to come than anything else, given that it’s the first democratic exercise since protests broke out in June.

The district council is the lowest rung of government in the city and councilors have few real powers, mostly advising the chief executive on matters like fixing up parks and organizing community activities. Its elections have typically been plagued by low voter turnout and aren’t hugely competitive, compared with those for the Hong Kong’s more powerful Legislative Council.

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

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Meanwhile, the CCP’s resident Twitter mouthpiece is not happy:

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