Hong Kong voters turned out in record numbers yesterday in the city’s first district council elections following the pro-democracy Occupy protests of last year in which thousands of young people called for a greater voice in their own government.
In what many believed would be a referendum on the success of the movement, at least eight “Umbrella Soldiers,” young candidates who were inspired by participating in last year’s Umbrella Movement, won unexpected victories, according to HKFP.
One of these fresh young faces was Chui Chi-kin, who bested established pro-Beijing lawmaker Christoper Chung Shu-kun of the Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong (DAB). Chui had decided to run on the last day of the nomination period. “I’m a little surprised by the defeat,” Chung said. “Since Occupy, many youngsters registered as first-time voters. They showed their power.”
According to SCMP, perhaps the biggest surprise was the ousting of two pan-democratic big guns, Albert Ho Chun-yan and Frederick Fung Kin-kee.
By percentages, no pan-democratic group fared better than the NeoDemocrats, which won 15 of their 16 bids.
In total, about 900 candidates competed for 431 seats in 18 district councils. Pan-democrats won 112 seats, but failed to take control of any single district. Pro-establishment candidates took 298 seats, while independent candidates won 13 seats.
The historic turnout rate of 47% was higher than the previous record of 44% in 2003, but the results won’t do much to change the make-up of Hong Kong governance with the balance of power remaining largely the same.
Anyway, district councilors wield little actual power, acting more in an advisory role in which they are able to push forward polices for the city’s Beijing-controlled government to consider. However, the election of the eight “Umbrella Soldiers” sets the stage for next year’s more important Legislative Council elections as well as the controversial poll to select the city’s leader in 2017.