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23.11.2019 Asia

Hong Kong votes after months of violent chaos

By Jan van der Made - RFI
RFI/Stéphane Lagarde
NOV 23, 2019 ASIA

Hong Kong's protest movement called on Saturday for citizens not to disrupt district council elections in which pro-democracy parties hope to send a message to the city's Beijing-backed government. There have been no major rallies or violent clashes between police and protesters in the run-up to Sunday's district polls, a rare respite for a city roiled by nearly six months of political unrest.

Both pro-Beijing and pro-democracy activists want the elections to be held.

Amid concerns that violence could cause authorities to delay the polls, first-time voters have been advised online to avoid spoiling their ballots, while protest forums have urged an orderly ballot.

And Chief Secretary for Administration Matthew Cheung, quoted by the Beijing-controlled China Daily, said that there will be a polices presence at the poling stations. "We must ensure that there is enough police present to deter any interference and also to really maintain law and order, to maintain safety of the polling staff as well as the electors and the candidates."

Face recognition?
Polls open Sunday morning as the semi-autonomous city of 7.5 million.

The Hong Kong electoral commission on Saturday rejected rumors that pollsters will be registered devices designed for face recognition.

“The ballot is secret. There is no "facial recognition system" installed in any polling station of the 2019 District Council Ordinary Election. Poll of electors will not be filmed. The relevant rumor online is incorrect,” the Registration and Electoral Office said in a statement.

On 4 October, Chief Executive Carrie Lam drew massive criticism after banning face masks, invoking a colonial law.

Protesters say they are wearing masks because they are generally afraid that their identities may be sent to mainland China to be used against them.

New voters
Voters will elect 452 councillors in Hong Kong's 18 districts. Turnout is usually low, but over the last months, some 400,000 new voters have registered.

Currently, pro-Beijing parties have 331 councillors against pro-demcrats with 118, but this figure may shift.

Political analysts expect pro-democracy candidates to make gains in the district councils, but to still fall well short of a majority of the 452 slots.

The councils are local bodies that focus on civil affairs, health and environmental issues and community activities and are under the supervision of the Home Affairs Bureau of Hong Kong's government.

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