The anti-establishment fervour created from almost six months of street protests swept through polling stations across the three territories of Hong Kong as voters rejected pro-Beijing candidates in favour of those seeking change.
Hong Kong CEO Carrie Lam’s future is even more precarious after a record turnout at the Hong Kong district elections saw the pro-democracy camp win 17 out of 18 district councils, all of which were previously under pro-establishment control.
The anti-establishment fervour created from almost six months of street protests swept through polling stations across the three territories of Hong Kong, a Special Administrative Region of China, as voters rejected pro-Beijing candidates in favour of those seeking change.
A record 71% of the city’s 4.1 million registered voters casted ballots on Sunday, far exceeding the 47% turnout in the district council elections four years ago.
The disaffection towards the establishment among voters was clear across the board, as pro-democracy candidates rode the wave to win big in poor and rich neighbourhoods, in both protest-prone and non-protest-afflicted districts. This was the same result in downtown areas as well as the suburbs, the South China Morning Post reported
There is no indication yet if there was a generational divide but ousted pro-establishment district councillors suggested that young, first-time voters had been instrumental in dislodging them from their seats.
The result may help force Lam and the central government in Beijing to rethink how to handle the unrest, which is now in its sixth month.
Lam said the government respects the results of the local district elections.
In a statement, Lam said the government will listen to the views of the public with an open mind. She also said she hopes the calm seen in the lead up to the election can continue.
“There are many analyses (sic) and interpretations which say the results reflect the public’s dissatisfaction with the current state of things and the deep-seated problems in society,” she said, promising that the government will listen with an open mind and “seriously reflect”.
Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi said that Hong Kong is a part of China “no matter what happens” in the local district elections.
“Any attempt to mess up Hong Kong, or even damage its prosperity and stability, will not succeed,” Mr Wang said after he met Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe in Tokyo.
The district councils have little power, responsible for only local matters, however, the vote became a referendum on public support for the protests. The district councils have no direct say over the chief executive’s program, however the pro-democracy camp will have a significant increase in seats on the election committee that chooses Hong Kong’s CEO.