A historic number of voters have overwhelmingly favored pro-democracy candidates in local polls seen as a referendum on months of anti-government protest. City leader Carrie Lam said she would “listen humbly” to voters.
Hong Kong residents turned out in record numbers to vote in Sunday’s district elections, with an overwhelming majority choosing candidates affiliated with the pro-democracy movement, in what activists are calling a clear signal of support for protesters’ demands.
Local broadcaster RTHK reported that pro-democracy parties took 390 out of 452 seats in the district council, or nearly 90%.
The polls closed with 71.2% of eligible voters casting a ballot, the election commission said, easily surpassing the figure of 47% in the last such vote in 2015.
“The government will certainly listen humbly to citizens’ opinions and reflect on them seriously,” Carrie Lam, the city’s embattled chief executive, said in a statement issued by the government on Monday morning.
Although the results represent voters’ disapproval of the city’s Beijing-backed government, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi reaffirmed that Hong Kong is part of China, “no matter what happens.”
Symbolic victory for pro-democracy
Surprise victories for pro-democracy candidates against strongly favored opponents led to some voting centers erupting in loud cheers and chants of “Liberate Hong Kong. Revolution Now” — a phrase used by many demonstrators in recent months.
DW correspondent Phoebe Kong posted video of supporters celebrating the defeat of controversial pro-Beijing politician Junius Ho.
The selection of 452 councilors, who manage local issues such as bus routes and garbage collection, generally does not attract much attention. But the vote has taken on greater significance after more than five months of political turbulence, as anti-government protesters agitate for democratic rights that they view as being suppressed by Beijing.
DW’s Charlotte Chelsom-Pill in Hong Kong said those protesters were “celebrating what they see as a massive victory and potentially a turning point in the six-month pro-democracy movement.”
These elections have been widely viewed as a referendum on the popularity of the top leadership, with the district councils being the only leadership bodies in Hong Kong directly elected by the people.
David Alton, a member of the British House of Lords who is among a number of international observers, told The Associated Press the unprecedented turnout “shows that there is a great groundswell in Hong Kong who believes in democracy.”
Beijing said on Monday it “resolutely” supports Lam’s leadership of Hong Kong and that China’s “one country, two systems “has not faltered.”
“The Chinese government’s resolve to protect national sovereignty, security and development interest has not faltered. Its resolve to carry out one country, two systems has not faltered,” said foreign ministry spokesman Geng Shuang at a regular press briefing.
Geng added that Beijing supported Hong Hong’s police and judiciary in “punishing relevant violent and illegal behaviors.”
Japan expressed concern Monday over the situation in Hong Kong. At a media briefing after a meeting in Tokyo between Japanese Foreign Minister Toshimitsu Motegi and China’s Foreign Minister Wang Yi, Motegi said China should ensure Hong Kong can prosper under the two systems model, according to a Japanese government official.
wmr, jsi, mvb/cmk (dpa, Reuters, AP, AFP)