Hong Kong’s local elections on Sunday marked a historic victory for the pro-democracy camp with a record-breaking voter turnout.

With nearly 3 million voters participating in the elections, pro-democracy candidates have won 389 of 452 seats while the pro-Beijing camp has lost over 200 seats.

The 71.2 percent voter turnout on Sunday was double than that of the district council elections in 2015, also higher than any other election in Hong Kong’s history.

The pro-democracy camp’s sweeping victory will likely impact the 2022 chief executive election, as the district councilors can serve as part of the election committee for Hong Kong’s legislators and chief executive. Hong Kong’s district councils, while being the lowest rung of elected offices, are responsible for local affairs like neighborhood traffic and community services. Although they lack real power in decision-making, they have access to local resources and they can better represent public opinion.

Multiple high-profile figures from the anti-extradition movement have secured district seats, such as Jimmy Sham, a convenor of the Civil Human Rights Front (CHRF), and Kelvin Lam, the backup candidate for Joshua Wong who was disqualified prior to the election.

Sham said the atmosphere of the months-long protest movement has virtually converted this local election into a de facto referendum. He hopes Chief Executive Carrie Lam will finally listen to the protesters’ demands, which include an independent inquiry into police brutality, universal suffrage, and amnesty for all arrested protesters.

Many incumbent legislators have also participated in the local elections but most of the pro-establishment legislators, such as Junius Ho and Michael Tien, lost in their districts. Ho, despite being attacked weeks before the election, failed to gain sympathy votes. The pro-Beijing legislator later wrote on his Facebook calling the election results “strange“ but did not provide any concrete explanation.

The Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong (DAB), the city’s most influential pro-Beijing political party, also lost most of its district council seats except for its party chair Starry Lee and a few others.

Pro-democracy legislator Leung Kwok-hung (梁國雄), also known as “Long Hair,” lost the race to Lee by a very narrow margin but he said Hongkongers have won.

“They used a 70 percent voter turnout to tell the world that they oppose the governance of Chief Executive Carrie Lam and police brutality, and the election results also prove that the government’s legitimacy equals zero,” Leung said.

The pro-establishment camp has been advocate for Beijing’s implementation of “one country, two systems.” However, its Sunday defeat might pressure Beijing to rethink its strategy, possibly conceding to some of the protesters’ demands or replacing Carrie Lam. Alternatively, Beijing might also further suppress the democratic voices by finding ways to disqualify the elected candidates as it did in 2016 to prevent pro-democracy lawmakers from taking their seats.

Despite a rather quiet week leading up to the local elections, dozens of pro-democracy protesters are still trapped at the Hong Kong Polytechnic University campus, surrounded by riot police. Supporters have rallied for another lunch protest in Central today, urging the police to withdraw from the campus area.

“The first compromise the government should make is to immediately stop surrounding Poly U and stop charging the students and protesters who’re still inside,” Sham said.

After the Sunday election, the CHRF released a statement demanding the government to listen to the will of the people and stop surrounding the university immediately. The organization has also called for another mass protest on December 8 to demand the government to uphold its duty to protect human rights.

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Editor: Brian Hioe (@thenewslensintl)

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