In many parts queues were formed to vote for the Hong Kong local elections. Throughout the morning, people were patiently waiting to vote. District council elections like these usually have little importance. But this time it’s about more. It is the first vote since the protests started more than five months ago. The result will show just how much popular support for the protest movement remains after the situation has escalated significantly in recent weeks.
“The government does not listen to the people. This election is therefore an important way to make us heard, “says 28-year-old Cheung in Sai Wan district. He was standing in a queue that almost enclosed a whole block of houses. The pro-democracy parties hope to convert the protest mood in the city into mandates.
“For the first time in Hong Kong local elections, at least two candidates compete for each of the 452 seats”
Traditionally, their mostly young clientele is difficult to mobilize for local elections. That’s why in many districts they did not even have candidates in the past. For the first time, at least two candidates compete for each of the 452 seats.
The establishment parties, in turn, have declared the election to be a vote against violence, which does not mean police violence. “The district election is a great opportunity to show if you support violence or peaceful action”, said Samuel Mok Kam-sum, a candidate of DAB’s largest pro-Beijing party. He was in the middle of the election campaign. Just a few hundred yards from the nearest polling station, he has set up his booth and takes selfies with supporters. “We hope to get the silent majority to the polls”, he said.
Until two weeks ago, the Pro Beijing camp faced a bitter defeat. Many supporters of the establishment were disappointed with the government’s passive crisis management. Afraid that their constituents might stay at home, the pro-Beijing parties kept their distance from the government and openly criticized Chief Executive Carrie Lam.
“We hope to get the silent majority to the polls” – Samuel sum, pro-Beijing party
The events of the past few days could have improved the chances of the pro-Beijing parties. Activists had sabotaged large parts of public transport and blocked the cross-Habour tunnel connecting the island of Hong Kong with the mainland of the Special Administrative Region.
Many Hong Kongers were therefore unable to drive to work and were not very enthusiastic about the action. Added to this are the serious riots at Chinese University and Polytechnic University. While the police dipped the city in tear gas and encircled the university squatters, the activists threw hundreds of Molotov cocktails and devastated entire streets. “The government uses this to put our candidates in a bad light”, says pro-democracy district councilor Clarisse Yeung.
However, the struggles at the two universities are also a mobilizing factor on the other side. “I studied at Chinese University, and I am deeply outraged that the police attacked them”, says Cheung, the man in the queue in Sai Wan.