Church leaders claim packed polling stations a sign of public anger against the current social set-up
Updated: July 14, 2020 10:54 AM GMT
The overwhelming response to the primary election in Hong Kong is a sign of people’s dissatisfaction with the current state of affairs, claimed some Christian leaders in the former British colony.
Far exceeding organizers’ expectation, over 610,000 people Hong Kong cast their ballots in the democratic camp primaries elections over the weekend.
The election, held amid the backdrop of the controversial security law, was meant to select pro-democracy candidates to contest against pro-Beijing candidates in September’s legislative council elections in Asia’s financial capital of 7.5 million people.
The poll was widely seen as a sign of continuing opposition to the new national security law imposed by Beijing at the beginning of this month bypassing the Hong Kong legislature.
Benny Tai, one of the organizers, termed the huge turnout as “a miracle created by Hong Kongers.”
He told a press conference that organizers had expected a turnout of 170,000.
To douse the enthusiasm of the people, the pro-China Hong Kong administration had issued a warning against the primaries, which were conducted in more than 250 polling stations manned by thousands of volunteers.
Erick Tsang Kwok-Wai, secretary for constitutional and mainland affairs, said that voting may violate the recently introduced national security law.
Hong Kong’s pro-democracy movement has been plagued by mass arrests since last year and by the imposition of the security law, which proscribes vaguely defined acts of secession, subversion and terrorism.
As Beijing is resisting the pro-democracy movement, activists are trying all they can to secure a majority in the legislature in September which functions under the ‘One Country Two Systems’ policy.
The pro-democracy organisers are aiming for a ‘35-plus’ [lawmakers] to gain the upper hand in the Hong Kong legislature.
Church leaders said the huge voter turnout is a reflection of public anger against the current social set-up in Hong Kong.
Jackie Hung, project officer of Justice and Peace Commission of Hong Kong Diocese, admitted that despite the warnings from the administration, the turnout this time has been overwhelming.
Many shops and establishments willingly came forward to lend their space to conduct the poll process, Hung noted.
Hung, who served as a polling station volunteer, said that the entire voting process did not last more than a minute. “It was not as complicated as believed. Apart from young people, there were also quite a number of elderly people who voted,” Ling-yu said.
Chan Lai-ying, who voted in the election, said democracy and freedom in Hong Kong suffered a huge setback after the implementation of the national security law.
“Seeing so many people daring to come out to vote gave me the courage to vote. We are not going to back down though we know that the authorities will not give up easily
“This is a sign that people are ready to face the draconian security law,” Chan, a Catholic, admitted.
On July 10, police raided the Hong Kong Institute of Public Opinion (HKIP) office, which is co-organiser of the primary election.
HKFP claimed plainclothes officers moved around the office and a police van was stationed outside the building.
Carrie Lam, Hong Kong chief executive, recently issued a warning to the candidates and organisers of the primary.
“I am not saying it has breached it, but I have to put forward a warning that if that’s going to be proven to be the case, then it’s certainly a case to be answered,” she said.
Hung said that the Hong Kong administration issued the warning and raided the offices to reduce the number of voters.
“Judging from the number of voters, Hong Kong people are getting more and more resilient under pressure”.
From the beginning, the authorities have maintained that the primary was a provocation of the current election system and a violation of privacy laws.
Some pro-democracy candidates expressed the fear that the authorities may ban them from running in the September official election.
Sunny Cheung, a candidate in the West Kowloon district, told Voice of America: “Every ballot is a show of support for us. For people like Joshua Wong and me … We might be disqualified. We might be arrested. But now, people are coming out to speak. … We Hong Kongers value populist expression,” Cheung said.
Preliminary results showed a group of young democrats, or “localists”, securing a lion’s share of votes, reflecting a change of guard to a more radical grouping to face Beijing. Final results will be declared later on July 14.
Pro-democracy activist Joshua Wong Chi-fung was the top candidate in Kowloon East, while two candidates he endorsed – Gwyneth Ho Kwai-lam and incumbent lawmaker Eddie Chu Hoi-dick – won from New Territories East and New Territories West respectively.