Over 600,000 Hongkongers cast their ballot in the democratic camp primaries elections over the weekend, despite the authorities claiming the exercise may be illegal.
Co-organiser and law professor Benny Tai told the press after the polls closed that they recorded over 590,000 electronic ballots and more than 20,000 paper ballots throughout the two-day vote.
The figure exceeded his expected turnout of 170,000, though Tai said they are still awaiting the final tally.
“Hong Kong people have made history again – another miracle happened in Hong Kong,” he said. “Hong Kong people – after all these years, since 2003 – have demonstrated to the world, and also to the authorities, that we have not given up to strive for democracy.”
Tai added that, despite the security law and legal threats, Hongkongers still came out to exercise their right “and tell the whole world that we still want democracy – we have not given up.”
Another co-organiser and ex-lawmaker Au Nok-hin told the press that – according to an earlier turnout figure at 9pm – more than 13 per cent of the total number of registered voters showed up.
The primary results – expected to be released on Monday evening – will be used as a reference to select candidates to represent the democratic camp in five geographical constituencies.
The constituencies included Kowloon East, Kowloon West, Hong Kong Island, New Territories East, New Territories as well as two functional constituencies – “super” district councillors and health services sector in September’s Legislative Council election.
Throughout the weekend, citizens queued at over 200 polling stations in the heat, despite news of a fresh Covid-19 outbreak hitting the headlines.
One voter, surnamed Wong, told Stand News that the primaries were a true reflection of the citizens’ will and he hoped that localist candidates would win in order to change the political landscape that is dominated by older democrats.
Another voter, surnamed Lau, urged more Hongkongers to participate in the election: “In light of all the events that happened over the past year, we should cherish this opportunity as our liberty is stifled,” she told Apple Daily.
Scuffles and arrest
Apple Daily reported that a man scuffled with volunteers for District Councillor Ng Kin-wai, who was running in the New Territories West constituency. The man allegedly grabbed the phone of a volunteer and was later taken away by the police.
Meanwhile, District Councillor Louis Ho – a candidate for Michael Pang’s Hong Kong Island constituency team – was taken away by the police whilst he was campaigning outside Sai Wan Ho’s Tai On Building.
He told the press later in the evening outside Eastern Hospital that he was arrested for suspected possession of a dangerous drug. Ho said his medication was discovered during a police stop-and-search and he did not have his prescription on him.
He was released on bail and will need to report to Chai Wan police station in late July.
Also on Sunday, Shui Chuen O District Councillor wrote on Facebook that the Housing Authority (HA) requested that volunteers remove materials from a polling booth. According to Stand News, some HA staffers told the booth volunteers that they might “clear the scene” if they refused to comply. The stall halted its work for 30 minutes but resumed after the staffers left.
Earlier in the week, the HA sent out mass letters to some district councillors warning them that converting their public housing esate offices into polling stations may breach rental terms. Over 100 of the 250 designated polling stations were at district councillor offices, according to incumbent lawmaker Eddie Chu who was vying for New Territories West constituency.
Secretary for Constitutional and Mainland Affairs Erick Tsang has claimed that participation in the primaries could violate the law due to organisers’ calls for democrats to veto the annual government budget if they win a majority in the legislature.