Hong Kong leader vows to 'listen humbly' after shock poll result

Tuesday, 26 Nov, 2019

More than 2.94 million people, or roughly 71% of the financial hub's electorate, had voted, according to Barnabas Fung, chairman of the election affairs committee.

Pro-democracy candidate Jimmy Sham, right, celebrates with a supporter after winning his election in Hong Kong.

The pro-Beijing Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong (DAB), the largest party in the district councils, had won just 26 races and lost 156.

Voting began peacefully on Sunday morning, with riot police a visible presence on the streets and at polling booths. District councils lack any political leverage and deal mostly with communal issues, such as transport, utility services as well as oversee the distribution of funds to be spent on recreational and environment activities.

Protests eased in the poll run-up after pro-democracy figures urged calm to avoid triggering any election delay or suspension.

Reuters witnesses said there was only a small police presence as voting began at 7:30 a.m. (2330 GMT), in contrast to reports that riot police planned to guard all polling stations and nearly the entire force of 31,000 would be on duty.

Casting her ballot, Hong Kong's chief executive Lam, who is backed by Beijing, pledged that her government would listen more intensively to the views of district councils.

"I hope that ... the election will show that everyone doesn't want Hong Kong to return to chaos again, that we want a way out of this crisis so that we can have a fresh start", Lam said.

The victory will see the pro-democracy camp secure 117 seats in the 1,200-member pro-Beijing panel that elects the city's leader.

Johnny Lau, a commentator on Chinese politics, said Beijing may make strategic adjustments to minimise sparking more negative public reactions and would continue to blame foreign meddling in local politics.

"With the mandate from the Hong Kong people, protesters expect concessions from Beijing, but those concessions won't be coming".

Pro-democracy district council candidate Jimmy Sham (R) talks with British politician David Alton (L) at a public housing estate during district council elections in the Sha Tin district of Hong Kong on November 24, 2019.

Professor Lam says the election results may embolden protesters to call for their other demands to be met.

Mr Chau, a consultant, said he hoped people would vote "wisely". The protests have escalated in recent weeks, with smaller groups of hard-core protesters engaging in fierce clashes with police.

"It's action and reaction", she added.

But in many districts, young first-time candidates, many who had explicitly aligned themselves with the protesters, unseated established politicians backing the government.

He said "the pan-democratic movement had failed to condemn the violence".

Former student protest leader Tommy Cheung, who won a a seat in the Yuen Long district close to China's border said: "This is the power of democracy".

Pro-democracy district councillor Andrew Chiu, who had part of his ear bitten off in an attack at a shopping mall this month, was spotted entering a polling station in his district on Hong Kong island. About 1.47 million voted in the last district elections four years ago.

Many people clamoured to vote early, fearful that possible disruptions would lead to voting centres closing early. In a message on his Facebook page, Ho said it had been an "exceptional year, an exceptional election, and an unusual result". They also serve as an important grassroots platform to radiate political influence in the Chinese-ruled city.

"We want to be involved in the process, especially with everything that has happened", she said.

"Hong Kong people would opt for the ballots any time; but if denied that, they will risk confronting the police's bullets", she said.

Hong Kong opposition, joined by a plethora of United States lawmakers, have rejoiced at the result, with Sen.

Protesters had agreed on social media to pause their actions, creating the first teargas-free weekend since mid-August, to record the largest democratic participation that Hong Kong has ever seen, both in absolute numbers and in turnout rates.

As the election was underway, protestors remained trapped inside Hong Kong Polytechnic University after police sieged upon the campus following demonstrations against the shooting of a protestor.

The anger of protesters rose after 22-year-old student Chow Tze-lok fell in a auto park as he was allegedly trying to get away from tear gas fired by police.