Pro-democracy candidates won a landslide victory in Hong Kong’s district council elections as people turned out in record numbers on Sunday to choose their local representatives and deliver a stinging rebuke to the Carrie Lam administration.
Almost three million people voted, marking a record turnout of more than 71 percent in the local body polls that were widely seen as a referendum on the government and its handling of the months-long protest movement in the city.
Opposition candidates won around 390, or nearly 90 percent, of the 452 district council seats up for grabs as voters gave a huge thumbs down to the establishment bloc.
The tally – with the result of one more seat yet to come – means the pro-establishment camp has lost more than 240 seats compared to 2015.
Four years ago at the previous such polls, democrats only secured around 100 seats.
With the result, the pro-democracy camp will wrest control of 117 seats on the election committee for the 2022 Chief Executive Election.
When the results began trickling in after midnight, including upset wins for democrats against heavyweight pro-Beijing opponents, some voting centers erupted in loud cheers and chants.
“This is the power of democracy. This is a democratic tsunami,” said Tommy Cheung, a former student protest leader who won a seat in the Yuen Long district.
Jimmy Sham, a leader of the Civil Human Rights Front, which organized some of the anti-government rallies, won his electoral contest, as did Lester Shum, a former student leader of the umbrella movement in 2014.
Kelvin Lam, who stood in after activist Joshua Wong was barred from running, also scored a win.
A number of pro-Beijing heavyweights including Junius Ho, whose abrasive public comments have made him a hate-figure amongst many protesters, lost to pro-democracy challengers.
In a Facebook post, Ho described it as “an exceptional election, and an unusual result”.
The Democratic Party’s Cary Lo triumphed over Ho in Tuen Mun, emerging as a giant-slayer.
“My feeling now is very complicated. Of course we are excited and [thankful] for the result. However we still need to bear in mind that there are many university students [who] are still suffering in the social movements in recent months”, Lo said after the result, referring to the handful of protesters still holed up at Polytechnic University after fierce clashes last weekend.
Most observers had expected the opposition to make significant gains as the government’s popularity ratings were at an all-time low, but no one had predicted that the camp would win an overwhelming majority of seats.
The district councils control some spending and decide a range of local livelihood issues such as transport. The elections also serve as an important barometer of people’s mood.
The early winners were of one voice, crediting the people of Hong Kong and their support of the anti-extradition movement for their election victories.
“The vote result means that people are for democracy. People are for the anti-extradition movement. And people are still with the protesters”, Democratic Party lawmaker and election winner Ted Hui said.
“I see myself as one of the protesters, and now people voted for me, they voted for protesters. That is the message”, he added.
Student leader Jordan Pang, who soundly defeated DAB legislator Horace Cheung, said the pressure is now on the government to give a credible answer to the protest movement’s five core demands, which include an independent probe into police conduct, amnesty for arrested protesters, and push toward full democracy.
“The government… they have to face the fact that the majority of the Hong Kong people are supporting the five demands and they have to change the system and we must have a democratic government” he said. Updated with RTHK and Reuters reporting
– Contact us at [email protected]