Friday 6 December 2019

Lam to 'reflect' on rout by democrats in Hong Kong poll

Under pressure: Carrie Lam, Hong Kong’s pro-Beijing leader, after voting in the city’s local council elections.
Photo: Athit Perawongmetha/Reuters
Under pressure: Carrie Lam, Hong Kong’s pro-Beijing leader, after voting in the city’s local council elections. Photo: Athit Perawongmetha/Reuters

Aidan Marzo

The Hong Kong government says it will "seriously reflect" after pro-democracy candidates secured an overwhelming victory in council elections.

Videos of residents popping champagne bottles late on Sunday night circulated on social media as the first results of Hong Kong's 2019 district council elections came through.

Carrie Lam, the territory's pro-Beijing chief executive, said yesterday that the government respected the results and wished "the peaceful, safe and orderly situation to continue".

"There are various analyses and interpretations... and quite a few are of the view that the results reflect people's dissatisfaction with the current situation and the deep-seated problems in society," she said, adding that the government would "listen to the opinions of members of the public humbly and seriously reflect".

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A record 71pc of voters cast ballots in the elections in which pro-democracy candidates won 385 of the 452 seats. Pro-Beijing candidates held 59 seats and independents won eight. In the last election, four years ago, pro-democracy candidates won just 100.

Pro-establishment candidates, who ran unopposed in the previous 2015 ballot, were challenged in every constituency across all 18 districts, with pro-democracy candidates winning 17 of them.

The result marks a historic shift in the make-up of district councils, which have been dominated by pro-establishment members for years.

The bodies' powers are limited to local affairs, such as planning bus routes, pest control and organising recreational activities.

Big losses for Beijing included Junius Ho, a heavy critic of the protest movement, who lost his seat in Tuen Mun to a pro-democracy candidate.

Leticia Wong, a first-time pro-democracy candidate, claimed 65pc of the vote, beating rival Wong Ka Wing in Sha Tin.

Jocelyn Chau and Jimmy Sham, both of whom were attacked in the months leading up to the election, also claimed strong victories.

The landslide win appears to counter Beijing's theory that there is a "silent majority" who oppose the protest movement.

It puts further pressure on Ms Lam's administration as the 1,200-member committee that will pick the chief executive in 2022 includes 117 district councillors.

Wang Yi, the Chinese foreign minister, dismissed the vote as immaterial to the territory's status, adding: "No matter how the situation in Hong Kong changes, it is very clear that Hong Kong is a part of Chinese territory."

In the run-up to the citywide elections, extreme clashes had broken out between riot police and anti-Beijing protesters who had barricaded themselves in several universities.

The stand-offs were stoked in part by the death of a protester after a fall, and the shooting of another by a policeman at point-blank range.

Yet on Sunday, nearly three million people - about three-quarters of eligible voters - queued to exercise their democratic rights.

"Most people think the extra one million voters came out to send a political message to the government, that they still support the protesters and they're dissatisfied with the government," said Chinese University political scientist Ma Ngok.

"The government and the pro-Beijing camp have always claimed they have public support.

"This is a big slap in the face because the public has shown their real position in record numbers." (© Daily Telegraph, London)

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