Hong Kong set to vote for district elections after months of violent protests

Hong Kong, Nov 23 (ANI): After months of anti-government protests in Hong Kong, voters will have a chance to cast their opinion on the city's future through the district elections scheduled to be held on Sunday.

The district council is one of the lowest rungs of Hong Kong's elected offices. It is usually a quiet affair focused on community issues such as noise complaints, bus stop locations and neighbourhood beautification projects.

But the race has taken on outsize significance in the midst of the increasingly violent protests that have besieged the city in recent months, The New York Times reported.

Sunday's election will be the first test of whether the protests can transform public anger that has led millions to take to the streets into actual votes, or whether the populace has grown weary of acts of civil disobedience that have disrupted transportation and forced the closing of schools and businesses.

"Politically speaking, the battle of the district councils as a whole is a crucial battle in taking control," Eddie Chu, a pro-democracy legislator, who is also running for the district council, was quoted as saying.

The semi-autonomous region has witnessed an intense election campaign this season with several candidates being attacked on both sides, police firing tear gas at the campaign rallies this month and arrest of three candidates. Fears have been widespread that the city leadership could postpone the vote over the unrest.

A call to expand Hong Kong's limited democracy is one of the demands of the protest movement, which began in June over a now-withdrawn proposal that would have allowed extraditions to mainland China.

Protesters have called for direct elections for the entire legislature, where currently only 40 of the 70 seats are selected by popular vote. They have also called for the chief executive, who is selected by a largely pro-Beijing election committee, to instead be chosen by voters.

However, Hong Kong's chief executive Carrie Lam has said that the government would do its best to ensure the election would go on as scheduled.

On Friday, the city's police commissioner Chris Tang said that there would be a large police presence across the city on Sunday to prevent violence.

Protests across the city especially became intense after the death of a college student who fell from a parking structure near where the police had clashed with protesters.

Several campuses have been engulfed by large demonstrations, including the Chinese University of Hong Kong, where protesters clashed with the police and occupied the college for five days, and at Hong Kong Polytechnic University, where at one point more than 1,000 people were trapped by a police siege. (ANI)