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Massive Turnout in Hong Kong Elections Amid Protests

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VOA
Diunggah 26 Nov 2019

People in Hong Kong voted in record numbers during local elections despite ongoing protests, Sunday, November 24.

District Council members who are being elected by Hong Kong voters have no power to pass legislation. But the election is the first chance for residents to vote since a wave of anti-government protests erupted in June, creating bitter divides in Hong Kong society.

Hong Kongers are choosing more than 400 members of 18 district councils scattered across the tiny territory. The district councils essentially serve as advisory bodies for local decisions such as building roads or schools.

“I think the political message is more important than anything else,” Ma Ngok, a political scientist and professor at the Chinese University of Hong Kong, said. “If the democrats really score a landslide victory, it will show very clearly that the public is in support of the movement.”

Hong Kong has seen five months of pro-democracy protests. The protests initially took the form of massive demonstrations against a reviled extradition bill, which could have resulted in Hong Kongers being tried in China’s politicized court system.

The protests have escalated in recent weeks, with smaller groups of hard-core protesters destroying public infrastructure, defacing symbols of state power and clashing with police. Protesters defend the moves as an appropriate reaction to police violence and the government’s refusal to meet their demands.

Despite the protester violence, polls suggest the movement still enjoys widespread public support. Meanwhile, the approval of Hong Kong’s Beijing-friendly chief executive, Carrie Lam, has fallen to a record low of about 20%.

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