Record Influx In Hong Kong Elections Marked By Protests

Sara Gómez Armas

Hong Kong, Nov. 24 (EFE) .- The citizens of Hong Kong went to the polls massively today in elections to district councils with record participation, on an election day without altercations that will take the political pulse of the pro-democratic movement after almost Six months of street protests.

More than 2.4 million people had come to the polls at 18.30 local time (10.30 GMT), the highest number of elections in the history of Hong Kong, above the record 2.2 million in the legislative 2016, shows an increasingly politicized society.

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Four hours after the closing of the electoral centers at 22.30 hours (14.30 GMT), the participation reached 60.36%%, compared to 47% of the municipal 2015 and 58% of the 2016 legislative.

From before the opening of the electoral centers, at 7.30 local time, the Hong Kong people made long queues to be among the first to vote, something unusual in the city of about 7.5 million inhabitants, of which 4.1 were They registered to vote, another record figure conditioned by the protests.

"The people of Hong Kong still have freedom of choice and we have to express what we want," said Efe Alex, a 24-year-old engineer who has been actively involved in the demonstrations and who planned to vote for his district's pro-Democratic candidate in the upper-middle class neighborhood of South Horizons.

Although he sees the elections as vital, he does not believe that they suppress the brakes of the protests, which will continue 'because neither the Government nor the Communist Party of China are listening', and it is they who blame the resurgence of violence in recent weeks .

However, both during the electoral day and in the previous days, calm has dominated, without incident, precisely to prevent violence from serving as a pretext to cancel the elections, something that neither side wanted.

In fact, in social networks since yesterday a collective petition circulated to go to vote soon, since if a violent episode forced the closing of the polls after the first three hours, the election would be valid and only the votes received until that time would be counted moment.

'He was afraid that the government could close the voting centers for any dispute. They can always find some reason to justify their unfair actions, 'said Larry, a 25-year-old pro-Democrat who voted early in the Kowloon neighborhood.

For this young man who was involved in the protests, these elections "are the occasion to show that the citizens of Hong Kong are increasingly politically engaged."

In fact, with respect to 2015, one million new voters have registered, and 392,600 registered in the last year, coinciding with the protests, of which more than half are between 18 and 20 years old.

"There were rumors that the pro-China side would send thugs to cause problems if there is a large participation of young voters," said Ken Hung, a 42-year-old designer, who also voted early because of the risk of the polls closing early.

In the end that fear did not come true on this election day in which Joshua Wong, one of the leaders of the most visible democratic movement and the only banned candidate, urged the Hong Kong people to vote 'to express their dissatisfaction with Beijing'.

"Being the only disqualified candidate shows that the elections are being manipulated by the Chinese Communist Party," said Wong, who was also one of the leaders of the 2014 Umbrella Revolution.

From the pro-China side, candidate Samuel Mok Kam Sum, 29, was campaigning in the street in the Mid Levels neighborhood a few meters from the polling station with the message that these elections imply 'the decision to support violence or peace '.

'We have suffered chaos and riots in Hong Kong. I ask everyone to use the vote to raise their voices and release anger, so that our society can recover peace and normalcy as soon as possible, 'said Mok, one of the 1,090 candidates who dispute 452 councilor positions in the 18 districts of Hong Kong.

He is also tired of the violence and protests Chow Keith, a 78-year-old man who, with his vote for the pro-establishment candidate in his Causeway Bay district, intends to express his unease and 'pressure the government to do something to end the altercations in the streets'.

Given the exceptional situation in the city, for the first time in the history of Hong Kong, riot officers guard the polls and more than 30,000 police officers are on duty.

Although the protests began peacefully last June, protesters are now more radical and violent.

The situation reached its peak in the pitched battle that broke out last weekend with the Police after thousands of activists entrenched themselves on university campuses, armed with Molotov cocktails and arrows.

In almost six months of protests, more than 4,500 protesters have been arrested and two people have died. EFE

sga-sl / jg / alf

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