Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor voiced hope on Monday, a day after the city’s district council elections, that the people of Hong Kong can continue to express their views in a peaceful manner.
The election, which saw a record turnout of 71.2 percent of eligible voters, was the first citywide election since protests erupted in June over the now-withdrawn extradition law amendment bill. The ensuing social unrest has grown increasingly violent.
A total of about 2.94 million registered electors cast votes in the community-level election on Sunday.
In the election, the pro-establishment camp, which held more than 300 seats in the previous election four years ago, won 59 seats, while rivals netted 385.
The district polling was conducted under very difficult circumstances due to social incidents over the past few months, Lam said.
She thanked the voters for their active participation and said it showed that voters hoped to express their views through the election.
The voting was held in a generally peaceful, safe and orderly manner, Lam said in a statement.
She said she firmly believed that the vast majority of the public would share her wish that peace and order will continue after the recent unrest in the city.
In the past few months, radical protesters resorted to vandalism and attacked police officers and ordinary citizens who held different views. They even disrupted pro-establishment candidates with violence during election campaigns.
Lam said the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region’s government will humbly listen to the views of the public and seriously reflect on them.
The government respects the election results, which showed people’s dissatisfaction with the current situation and deep-seated problems in society, Lam said.
In Beijing, Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang emphasized during a regular news conference that halting violence is still the city’s top priority.
“The most pressing task in Hong Kong is to stop violence and restore order,” he said.
Geng reaffirmed that the Chinese government is determined to safeguard national sovereignty, security and development interests, implement the “one country, two systems” policy, and oppose any foreign interference in Hong Kong affairs.
Also on Monday, State Councilor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi said any attempt to disrupt and damage Hong Kong’s stability and prosperity would be in vain.
No matter how the situation in Hong Kong unfolds, it is clear that Hong Kong is a part of China’s territory, Wang said during a visit to Japan.
Lau Siu-kai, vice-president of the Chinese Association of Hong Kong and Macao Studies, said most voters, affected by the protracted social unrest, were driven by political turmoil and failed to discharge their duty to bring benefits to the community.
The election results showed that many voters made the choice only based on candidates’ political backgrounds, instead of their capacity to serve the community, Lau said.
He cautioned that such “protest vote” tactics might hurt voters, as some winning candidates with little expertise and experience in community work might fail to serve the needs of neighborhoods.
Tommy Wu, senior economist at Oxford Economics (Hong Kong), said: “While the district councilors are only responsible for local issues, the record turnout and overwhelming results suggest that the Hong Kong government will need to work closely with opposition parties on future policy issues in order to win support from local citizens to push forward policy initiatives.
“I expect more fiscal stimulus will be rolled out in the future, especially after the eventual end to the current political unrest,” he added.