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Counting under way in key Hong Kong elections

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Counting is under way in Hong Kong’s key Legislative Council (Legco) elections – the first since the so-called Umbrella Revolution of 2014 – after record numbers of voters cast their ballots well past midnight.

About 90 per cent of votes had been counted by 9:30am local time (01:30 GMT) on Monday, the government in the Chinese territory said on the official electoral website.

At some polling stations, there were long queues until until 2:30am local time (18:30 Sunday GMT) – four hours later than the scheduled cut-off time – with a turnout of almost 60 percent of 3.7 million voters.

Nathan Law Kwun-chung, the former student leader of the Umbrella Revolution rallies, has won his seat, according to reports.

Law, 23, contested as a candidate of the Demosisto party, which wants a referendum for Hong Kong residents on whether they should stay part of China.

Law was a key figure in the 2014 pro-democracy movement which saw parts of downtown Hong Kong occupied for 79 days in protest of a controversial electoral reform bill.

The city-wide vote was the biggest since mass pro-democracy protests in 2014 and saw candidates fighting for seats in the Legco, as concerns grow that China is tightening its grip on the semi-autonomous city.

“There have been some emotional scenes here at the election centre as the results come in bearing out the expected trend that have been predicting the rise of the so-called localist movement,” Al Jazeera’s Rob McBride, reporting from Hong Kong, said.

HK elections: Young candidates face uphill fight

“These new parties and groupings have grown largely out of the Occupy movement two years ago, groups with very different agenda from the mainstream pro-democracy groups.

“Some key leaders of the pro-democracy parties have lost their seats.”

Only 40 out of 70 total seats are directly elected by the public, while special interest groups representing a range of mostly pro-China businesses and social sectors select the rest 30 lawmakers.

Results as of 5:30am local time showed victories for some young “localist” activists who are pushing for more distance or complete independence from China.

The pro-democracy alliance of political parties is set to retain veto power in the Legco.

However, the pro-China contingent will continue to dominate the legislature, as they hold on to their seats in the functional constituency.

Accusations of fraud

The proposed law will grant all residents the right to vote for the chief executive in 2017 for the first time, but it also inserts a clause that candidates must be vetted by a loyalist committee.

But most established pro-democracy politicians do not support the notion of independence and may lose seats to voters who now favour more radical new groups.

“The way the Legislative Council is structured it still remains effectively a pro-establishment body. But even so Beijing and Hong Kong will be worried about the results that how polarised Hong Kong society has become,” the Al Jazeera correspondent said.

Sunday’s election was marred by accusations of fraud, an uncommon occurrence in the city that was tranferred to Chinese control from Britain in 1997 under a “one country, two systems” agreement.

But Leung Chun-ying, the city’s chief executive, in a statement on Sunday night praised the conduct of the commission in ensuring fair elections.

[Source: Al Jazeera And Agencies]
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