By Sara Gómez Armas / Hong Kong/ Pro-democracy parties have swept local elections in Hong Kong, securing 388 out of a total of 452 seats in the city’s council in a landslide win that demonstrates the overwhelming support for ongoing anti-government and anti-Beijing protests that began in June.
The alliance of pro-Beijing parties suffered heavy losses, according to results on Monday, winning just 59 seats after going into the poll with almost 300.
Among the victors are the Civic Party and the Democratic Party, which won 32 and 91 seats respectively, and emerged as the two biggest parties on the city’s district councils following the poll on Sunday, which saw a record turnout of 71.2 percent.
“What happened yesterday in the district council elections is by any definition historic,” Alan Leong, chairman of the Civic Party, told a press conference.
He thanked the millions who had turned out to exercise their democratic rights. “This is the most rational, peaceful and scientific way to quantify our discontent with the current administration.”
Meanwhile, Wu Chi-wai, chairman of the Democratic Party, called for the newly-elected councilors not to rest on their laurels. “We are only vehicles to reflect people’s concerns. I hope every new councilor will take that position extremely seriously.”
Wu also praised the “maturity” Hong Kong had shown through the election. “We are fully capable of expressing our expectations of the government peacefully through the ballots in our hand,” he said.
Lawyer Fed Li of the Democratic Party said he hoped that Carrie Lam, Hong Kong’s chief executive and the target of much of the protester’s ire, would heed the movement’s message in the wake of the lopsided victory.
At lunchtime, a large crowd of pro-democracy supporters, ranging from young activists to bankers, took to the streets again in Central, the core business district of the Asian financial hub, as they have done every day over the past week.
But unlike the violence and tension of previous demonstrations, the mood at this rally was celebratory following the heavy defeat handed to authorities.
In a statement, Lam, the chief executive of the Special Administered Region, admitted that the results “reflect people’s dissatisfaction with the current situation and the deep-seated problems in society”, adding that her government would “listen to the opinions of members of the public humbly and seriously reflect”.
But Lam, who is backed by Beijing and pro-mainland parties, didn’t mention the possibility of her resigning, one of the protesters’ main demands, and an issue which was debated by the pro-Beijing Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong (DAB), whose president Starry Lee admitted the elections represented a “big setback”.
Lee offered to step down as the DAB only won 21 seats despite fielding 181 candidates, but the party’s central committee rejected her resignation as it considered the defeat a “collective failure”.
According to the results, pro-democracy politicians would now control all the 18 districts of Hong Kong, completely reversing the dominance of pro-establishment block.
The post of councilman has traditionally had little political relevance, with its powers limited to community issues, but these elections have assumed increased significance as a virtual referendum after protests rocked the city since June.
The opposition’s unexpected landslide majority is also important because it could give them greater sway in electing the next chief executive of Hong Kong, who is chosen by the 1,200-member assembly which has been traditionally dominated by Beijing allies.
Several protest leaders were among the successful candidates, at least nine of whom were the victims of violent attacks by counter-demonstrators during the unrest, such as Jimmy Sham or Andrew Chin.
Sham is the coordinator of the Civil Human Rights Front – which organized the largest demonstrations in Hong Kong’s history last June – and Andrew Chin is from the Power for Democracy platform.
After his win in Lek Yuen district, Sham, who has twice been the target of violent attacks, told the media that local elections were “a referendum” reflecting public opinion and its result was a triumph for all of Hong Kong.
In the pro-China block, Junius Ho, widely disliked by protesters and the target of a stabbing attack in November, failed to retain his councilman seat, sparking applause and cheers among pro-democracy movement voters.
According to his detractors, Junius – a lawyer aligned with Beijing – has links with local mafias who indiscriminately attacked people in subway stations in tourist areas to sow chaos during protests.
Kelvin Lam, who replaced prominent activist Joshua Wong in the pro-democracy side’s leadership, also won his seat.
Wong is one of the most visible leaders of the democracy movement that began in 2014 through the Umbrella Revolution, and the only candidate authorities prevented from contesting the elections.
Wong said Sunday before voting that his disqualification proved the city’s elections were manipulated by China’s Communist Party, but that he’d continue fighting for the rights to self-determination of Hong Kong people.
The elections on Sunday were held without any major incidents reported, despite over three million people turning out to vote.
Of the 4.1 million registered voters, around one million were added since the 2015 council elections, with the majority of the newcomers consisting of first-time voters aged 18-20.
Polling stations were guarded by anti-riot police and over 30,000 police officers were deployed on Sunday.
The Hong Kong pro-democracy protests started peacefully in June to demand the suspension of a now-withdrawn law allowing extradition to mainland China but morphed into a wider pro-democracy movement that turned increasingly violent in recent weeks. (November 25, 2019, EFE/Practica Español)
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