Hong Kong’s pro-democracy camp has stormed to a landslide victory in local elections as a record number of voters voiced their discontent at the Chinese government.
The results are an indicator of the broad support for the anti-government protest’s overarching goals, even as the movement has turned increasingly violent.
At least 12 of the 18 district councils were won by pro-democracy parties, a stunning turnround after failing to win a single council at the last local election four years ago. Almost 3m people voted, nearly double the number who cast a ballot in 2015, representing more than 70 per cent of registered voters.
As of 7.38am Hong Kong time, the pro-democracy camp had secured 278 of 452 seats, according to the South China Morning Post.
Pro-Beijing candidates won 42 seats while independents affiliated with neither camp had taken 24 seats. One hundred and eight have not yet been declared.
Sunday’s poll was the first electoral test of public opinion since the city plunged into its worst political crisis more than five months ago, after Carrie Lam, the city’s chief executive, tried to pass a contentious extradition bill. The proposed legislation could have seen criminal suspects sent to mainland China for the first time.
While millions took to the streets in June to show their discontent towards bill, the government has since effectively banned such large public gatherings.
District council elections are historically muted affairs. Councillors wield little political power and the campaign is typically focused on local issues such as noise pollution. But this year’s elections were a chance to gauge public opinion at a time of unprecedented political upheaval.
Several star candidates from the pro-Beijing camp lost their seats, including Junius Ho, an outspoken critic of the pro-democracy movement who many protesters said had supported mob attacks on them.
“An exceptional year, an exceptional election, an abnormal result,” Mr Ho wrote on Facebook following his defeat.
While Joshua Wong, the prominent pro-democracy advocate who was barred from running in this year’s district council elections, the candidate who stood in for him, Kelvin Lam, won in his constituency. Several leading pro-democracy advocates also swept to victory.
“Over the past few months, Carrie Lam’s government has falsely conveyed the will of the people, misinterpreted public opinion and smeared frontline protesters, accusing them of being thugs,” said the Civil Human Rights Front, an organiser of the massive public marches over the summer when millions took to the streets in peaceful protest.
“The results from today’s de facto referendum are very clear . . . We do not accept police violence! We won’t forget that the pro-Beijing camp supports totalitarianism!”