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Long voter queues as Hong Kong pro-democracy camp seeks poll gains

Long voter queues as Hong Kong pro-democracy camp seeks poll gains

Voters queue outside a polling station during district council local elections in Hong Kong, China November 24, 2019. REUTERS/Adnan Abidi

HONG KONG: Voters turned out in high numbers on Sunday (Nov 24) for Hong Kong's district council elections that the city's protest movement hopes will add pressure on the Beijing-backed government to hear their demands.

Long queues formed at polling stations and the government said turnout in the first two hours was triple the rate seen during the previous district council polls in 2015.

The polls closed at 10.30pm.

The turnout among the 4.13 million registered voters hit 63.7 per cent early Sunday evening, the commission said on its website, surpassing the previous high of 47.01 per cent in 2015.

READ: Hong Kong holds local elections amid political tensions

"Facing the extremely challenging situation, I am pleased to say... we have a relatively calm and peaceful environment for (the) election today," Chief Executive Carrie Lam said after voting in her constituency on Hong Kong island.

Some political analysts say high turnout could help the pro-democracy camp, which is calling the polls a referendum on Lam and the pro-Beijing government, who have refused to concede to their movement's demands.

Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam casts her vote during the district council elections in on Nov 24, 2019. (Photo: Ye Aung Thu/AFP)

But the polls are not entirely symbolic: Some candidates for next year's legislative elections will be drawn from district councillors, and the councils also will contribute 117 members to the 1,200-strong Beijing-controlled electoral college that chooses the chief executive.

The poll to choose 452 councillors handling community-level concerns like bus routes and garbage collection has traditionally generated little excitement but takes on new importance with this year's unrest.

READ: University campus siege nears end as Hong Kong gears up for election

READ: Hong Kong protests slacken ahead of closely watched poll

Hong Kong has been buffeted by months of mass rallies and violent clashes pitting police against protesters agitating for greater democracy in the Chinese territory.

The councils have long been dominated by the city's pro-Beijing bloc, and voters seeking change said they hope that weakening the establishment's grip will give fresh momentum to the democracy movement.

"I hope this ballot can increase our voice in the council," 19-year-old student Michael Ng, voting for the first time in his life, told AFP.

"Even though one ballot can only help a little, I still hope it can bring change to society and support street protests in some way."

MORE: Our coverage of the Hong Kong protests

Follow us on Telegram for the latest on Hong Kong: https://cna.asia/telegram

Source: AFP/mn

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