HONG KONG — Two democracy veterans lost their seats but at least six candidates who took part in crippling protests last year won office at district elections in Hong Kong on Sunday, the first real test of the city’s pro-democracy movement since the demonstrations.
The mixed results from the elections, in which a record number of people voted, will not significantly change the numerical make-up of pro-democracy and pro-government groups, but the election of six so-called Umbrella Soldiers reflects continued support for the pro-democracy movement.
Poll results were being announced on Monday.
District councilors wield little power, acting more in an advisory role in which they can push forward policies for the government in the Chinese-controlled city to consider.
But the poll results may provide insight into how elections for the city’s powerful Legislative Council, due next year, and a controversial leadership poll in 2017 could pan out.
Democratic Party lawmaker Albert Ho, who faced stiff competition in the gritty new town of Tuen Mun in the western New Territories, lost his seat. So, too, did Frederick Fung, another pan-democratic candidate who ran in the working-class district of Sham Shui Po.
The government said about 1.468 million registered electors, representing a cumulative turnout rate of about 47 percent, had cast their votes.
“We believe that we got the highest number of voters ever turned out in a district board election,” Chief executive Leung Chun-ying said late on Sunday. “This suggested that people are paying more attention to their voting right.”
About 900 candidates competed for 431 seats in 18 district councils, where pro-Beijing parties hold a majority, at a time when people are divided over the pace of political reform.
Hong Kong returned to Chinese rule in 1997 under a “one country, two systems” formula that gives it substantial autonomy and freedoms, with universal suffrage promised as an “ultimate goal”.
The 79-day protests last year, when activists streamed on to highways to demand full democracy for the former British colony, became the biggest political challenge to Beijing’s Communist Party leaders in years. The protests failed to persuade China to allow a fully democratic vote in 2017. Beijing says city voters have to choose from a list of candidates it has approved.