Hong Kong is set to hold local elections on Sunday with record turnout amid ongoing protests starting early in June in response to a move by the current administration to legalize extraditions to China.
The local elections, held once every four years, are the only “fully democratic” polls held under the autonomous region of China with a population of 7.4 million. Protesters, who view the government led by Chief Executive Carrie Lam as a “puppet” of China, see the ballot as a great opportunity to change the political climate in the city.
According to data compiled by Anadolu Agency, a total of 1,104 candidates will compete in the elections that will determine the district councilors who will have the right to elect the government and lawmakers on behalf of the citizens in elections slated for 2020.
The candidates, who will compete for 452 seats in 18 different councils, will be part of a committee with 1,200 members if elected. This committee then elects lawmakers, cabinet members and government leader out of a candidate list provided by Beijing.
There are a total of 479 seats available in councils, while 27 seats are determined separately.
Though such polls in the past usually garnered low participation, a record 4.1 million residents have registered to vote in Sunday’s polls.
District councilors not only have a say in the election of the government but also assume responsibility in public services such as infrastructure, health and transportation.
Notably, all candidacy applications were accepted in Hong Kong except that of Joshua Wong — a prominent activist — who was not allowed to run. Wong’s application was denied on the grounds that he crossed a “red line” of the Beijing administration when he demanded the “freedom of Hong Kong”.
Security forces ready
Security forces in Hong Kong were put on full alert as the polls are expected to instigate fierce competition between pro-Beijing Hong Kongers, who currently hold a majority in the assembly, and demonstrators.
A force of 31,000 — nearly the entire Hong Kong police force — will be present at 600 election points to ensure security.
As violent attacks against security forces have recently increased, police will don protective vests .
Status of Hong Kong
Having been under British rule for years as a result of a “lease agreement” dating back to 1898, Hong Kong, or the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (HKSAR), became an autonomous region under China since 1998.
As part of a joint declaration, Hong Kong was given the right to maintain its administrative independence and structure until 2047.
Although Hong Kong is bound to China on subjects such as defense and foreign policy, it possesses its own currency, language and legal system.
This two-pronged administration model is regarded as “one country, two systems”.
Democracy advocates argue that the existing China-based practices in the autonomous region contradict with this administration model, Beijing’s authority over election candidate lists.
*Writing by Ali Murat Alhas
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