Pro-democracy candidates won nearly 90% of seats in district councils across the city
District council elections are supposed to be boring, low-key affairs that don’t have nearly the same turnout, media coverage or acclaim of general elections. But on Sunday Hong Kong saw the largest turnout in the city’s history, seeing the pro-democracy candidates win nearly 90 per cent of seats over Beijing candidates across the city. Wow.
Three million people – that’s 70 per cent of registered voters – cast a ballot, which led to the the pro-democracy camp winning 17 of 18 districts — compared with zero in the last poll four years ago. People were voting for 452 district councillors, who oversee everyday neighbourhood affairs, but this new control gives democracy members the right to select 117 of the 1,200-member committee (of mostly pro-Beijing loyalists) that chooses the city’s leader.
And so, the opposition will have more of a say in who succeeds current pro-Beijing leader Carrie Lam in 2022.
The results will be seen as strong support for the anti-government protest movement, which has been unsettling the city since June. In a statement released on Monday, Ms Lam said the government would ‘respect’ and ‘reflect on’ citizens’ views.
Not only was it a success for pro-democracy candidates, but it was also a success for female pro-democracy candidates. Clara Cheung was revealed as the winner of the Hong Kong suburb Happy Valley, ousting a pro-establishment dynasty who’d held a tight grip on the seat for three decades.
Clara, a 40-year-old mother of two, part-time lecturer and art curator, said she had hoped to win but ‘didn’t try to expect anything’.
Meanwhile Karrine Fu won her Fort Street constituency by the smallest of margins – just 59 votes. The 23-year-old was born and bred in the Fortress Hill area. She is a third-generation Fujianese Hong Konger – so is part of a community who came over from China’s Fujian province and which is known to be more conservative and pro-Beijing.
She defeated the incumbent, 45-year-old Hung Lin Cham, a secondary school teacher representing the main pro-Beijing Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong (DAB), who won the past three elections without contest.
According to news outlet HK01, Ms Fu, an arts graduate from the University of Hong Kong, decided to run in the district elections precisely because of the anti-government protests.
She told the news outlet that she felt ‘encouraged’ to do more for Hong Kong as a result of the movement. Reports say she was offered a job in a school but turned it down because of the protests.
China has not directly commented on the embarrassing results, and major news outlets among China’s tightly controlled media have largely avoided detailed reporting of how Hong Kong citizens voted.