Pro-democracy parties win big majority in Hong Kong local elections
HONG KONG, Kyodo - Pro-democracy parties won a majority in district council elections Sunday for the first time since the former British colony was returned to Chinese rule, scooping more than two-thirds of the seats, local media reported Monday.
Democratic candidates took 340 of the 452 directly elected seats in what was also the first electoral contest since mass pro-democracy demonstrations began in June, according to local media outlets. The pro-establishment bloc won 39 seats.
Official figures showed a record 69 percent of the territory's 4.1 million voters had turned out by 9:30 p.m. in Sunday's elections, which many viewed as a de facto referendum on Chief Executive Carrie Lam's leadership following nearly six months of increasingly violent protests.
The turnout in the first hour of polling was nearly four times higher than in 2015, as rumors circulated online that polling stations could close early due to possible violence.
But aside from a lingering stand-off between radical protesters and police at a university in Kowloon, voting took place without major incidents and no anti-government demonstrations were reported in the city on Sunday.
The protests, sparked by a now-withdrawn bill that sought to allow extraditions to mainland China, have resulted in many arrests, widespread vandalism, numerous injuries, and even some deaths, plunging the city into a political crisis and economic recession.
The district council functions as an advisory body on government policies and helps build political support for the government. While councillors cannot pass laws or make decisions on policies, they make up 117 of the 1,200-member election committee that picks the city's chief executive.
A record 47 percent of the eligible 3.12 million electors voted in the last election in 2015, in which pro-democracy parties nabbed some 100 seats while the pro-establishment camp won about 300.
The four-year district council term runs from January 2020.
Hong Kong was returned to China in 1997. (Kyodo)