500,000 Hong Kongers cast votes seen as a protest against new security laws
HONG KONG (CHINA) – Hundreds of thousands of Hong Kong citizens lined up to cast ballots over the weekend. According to the Chinese-ruled city’s opposition camp, this is a symbolic protest vote against strict national security laws directly imposed by Beijing.
The unofficial poll is expected to decide upon the strongest pro-democracy candidates so as to contest Legislative Council elections in September. With this, they aim to build an anti-China sentiment triggered by the law and to take control for the first time from pro-Beijing rivals.
Sunny Cheung, 24, one of a batch of aspiring young democrats out lobbying and giving stump speeches, said, “A high turnout will send a very strong signal to the international community, that we Hong Kongers never give up.”
“And that we still stand with the democratic camp, we still support democracy and freedom.”
Though a senior Hong Kong official announced that the vote might invite trouble from the national security law, residents including both young and old flocked to over 250 polling stations across the city, supported by volunteers.
Organisers say that 500,000 people had voted by late afternoon on Sunday, in the city of 7.5 million. The full turnout is likely to be announced on Monday morning after two full days of voting this weekend.
However, some pro-democracy activists are apprehensive that authorities will try to stop some candidates from running in September’s election.
Owen Chow, a young democratic “localist” candidate, said, “They can arrest or disqualify any candidate they don’t like under the national security law without a proper reason.”
At a time when Hong Kong authorities have stopped public marches and rallies for months amid coronavirus social restrictions, the vote is being seen as a crucial platform for populist expression.
“It’s a proxy referendum against the national security law,” said Democratic lawmaker Eddie Chu outside a metro station.
(Photos syndicated via Reuters)
This story has been edited by BH staff and is published from a syndicated field.