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24.11.2019 Europe

Hong Kong votes in highest turnout ever

By RFI
. REUTERS/Thomas Peter
NOV 24, 2019 EUROPE

Hong Kong voters flocked to the polls since 7.30 local time on Sunday morning in what has become the largest election turnout in the city's history. Both the protest movement, pro-Beijing parties and the Chinese state media have urged voters to cast their ballot.

A record number of people voted in Hong Kong's district election with several hours to go until polls close, the city's Electoral Affairs Commission said Sunday.

The turnout among the 4.13 million registered voters hit 47.26 percent late on Sunday afternoon, the commission said on its website, surpassing the previous high of 47.01 percent in 2015.

The election of 452 district councilors, who oversee everyday neighborhood affairs comes after five months of demonstrations that often erupted in intense violence.

The results will be seen as a litmus test of support for the anti-government protesters.

If the so-called “Pan-democratic” camp, a cluster of parties and politicians that want direct democracy and less influence from mainland China in Hong Kong's politics, gets a majority, this could exert more pressure on embattled leader Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor to find new ways to resolve the impasse.

Weeks of clashes
The city has enjoyed a rare lull in violent protests over the past four days after one of the fiercest weeks of clashes between black-clad radicals and police. However, police are stationed at the more than 600 polling stations.

Meanwhile, Chinese state media urged Hong Kongers to "vote to end violence" Sunday, as record numbers turned out for district elections after months of unrest in the city.

In a tweet, the nationalistic Global Times asked voters: "What would you choose? A peaceful and prosperous city or a violent uncivilized one?"

"The choice is yours," the tabloid posted, along with pictures of long polling queues and the text: "Cast vote to end violence".

An editorial in the Beijing News said it was an opportunity for voters to "end the social chaos and violence in Hong Kong with their own hands, and restore the social order".

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