Kowloon West residents cast their ballots in the Legislative Council by-election on Sunday to fill the seat of ousted lawmaker Lau Siu-lai, as candidates made last-minute appeals for voters to come out.

By 9:30pm, 202,212 eligible electors had voted, representing an accumulative turnout rate of 41.51 per cent according to government figures. The turnout is 0.06 per cent higher than the March by-election, also held in Kowloon West.

Joshua Wong
Activist Joshua Wong campaigns for Lee Cheuk-yan in Whampoa. Photo: Inmediahk.net.

Whampoa, an area with high localist support, was the centre of loud street campaigning, as Lee Cheuk-yan, Frederick Fung Kin-kee and Rebecca Chan Hoi-yan supporters lined the streets around the MTR station exits to rally in damp conditions.

HKFP spoke to ex-lawmaker Nathan Law, who said that a higher voter turnout could clinch the by-election for the democrats, but conceded that recent events have left voters disillusioned: “The pro-establishment camp has been manipulating the election overwhelmingly. The crucial point is whether young voters are motivated to vote,” he said.

Should democrats win the seat, they will reclaim veto power against the pro-Beijing camp’s bills, motions and amendments, enabling them to vote down any further changes to the legislature’s house rules. But if they lose, the pro-Beijing camp may propose changes, such as fines for lawmakers who are kicked out of the chamber for protesting.

Key battlegrounds

Street campaigning efforts in Kai Ching – a public housing estate in Kai Tak – were relatively low-key, with some volunteers retreating indoors to avoid the rain.

Analysts have pointed to the estate as a key battleground in Sunday’s by-election.

Kai Ching Estate
Kai Ching Estate in Kai Tak. Photo: Holmes Chan/HKFP.

In March, pro-democracy candidate Edward Yiu lost to his opponent by around 2,400 votes in the constituency. More than 1,700 of the votes were lost at Kai Ching estate and the neighbouring Tak Long estate.

The estate was considered by some commentators to be a pro-Beijing stronghold, and former lawmaker Chan Yuen-han went to the area to campaign for Rebecca Chan on Friday.

Of the nine people who spoke to HKFP, four said they voted for the pro-Beijing candidate Chan, four said they voted for pro-democracy candidate Lee, and one said she would vote for independent Ng Dick-hay or Judy Tzeng.

Wong Man-kit, 54, said Chan was more of a “clean slate” compared to the pro-democracy candidates: “Lee and Fung both have a history of stirring up trouble, I don’t see them as having accomplished much in their political careers.”

Kai Ching Estate
Supporters campaigning for Rebecca Chan in Kai Ching Estate. Photo: Holmes Chan/HKFP.

Josephine, 56, who did not want to give her surname, said that she had “lost faith” in the pro-democracy side and had lodged a protest vote against them for their failure to compromise: “I used to be a very strong supporter of the Democratic Party, but in the past couple of years, their behaviour is totally too much… My vote today is to punish them.”

Rebecca Chan
Rebecca Chan Hoi-yan. Photo: Yan Chan via Facebook.

See also: Hong Kong By-election: Last-ditch push in Kowloon West as candidates struggle against low turnout and rain

A woman who gave her surname as Yeung said she would vote for Lee because she wanted to express solidarity with the pro-democracy camp.

“What does [Chan] stand for? I really have no idea,” she said, adding that the democrats’ defeat in March was one of the reasons she felt compelled to vote on Sunday.

Kai Ching Estate
Promotion materials for Lee Cheuk-yan in Kai Ching Estate. Photo: Holmes Chan/HKFP.

A man who gave his surname as Ng, 28, said that he has voted for democrats during the past few elections, but said he knew fewer people who cast their ballots this time.

“Apart from my family and I, I don’t know anyone else who has [voted],” he said, adding that most people “don’t know” who to support.

Lee Cheuk-yan
Lee Cheuk-yan. Photo: Lee Cheuk-yan, via Facebook.

Anka Cheto, 44, said that she voted for the candidate that was most suited to her beliefs, even though she did not agree entirely with him: “We still have to voice out our opinions… It’s our way of speaking to the government.”

Lau Siu-lai
Lau Siu-lai. Photo: Inmediahk.net.

Both pro-Beijing and pro-democracy candidates issued “emergency” calls for votes on Sunday afternoon.

HKFP also observed a group of around 50 people given instructions to split up into smaller teams and to canvass floor-by-floor in the Kai Ching public housing estate.

The individuals were later heard to tell people to vote for “number five” – Chan’s candidate number. When asked about their affiliation, the person in charge declined to comment.

Candidates other than Lee and Chan include Judy Tzeng Li-wen and Ng Dick-hay.