The people made themselves heard: More than 2.9 million showed up to polls, a record-breaking 71 percent of registered voters. Pro-democracy candidates won 388 seats, while pro-Beijing candidates won only 59 seats. Five other seats went to independents. Half of the district seats flipped from pro-Beijing to pro-democracy candidates, with pro-democracy majorities now holding 17 of Hong Kong’s 18 districts.
Although the district councils are focused on very localized issues—traffic, neighborhood beautification, recreational facilities—they are the only government bodies fully chosen by direct elections. Only half of the members of Hong Kong’s legislature are elected by the public, while the city’s chief executive is elected by a special committee of 1,200 people. By gaining control of the district councils, the pro-democracy bloc will control 117 votes in the election committee, and district council members can be elected to six seats in the legislature.
Despite a district councilor’s mundane tasks, many candidates politicized their campaigns, using protest slogans such as “Five demands, not one less,” or “Liberate Hong Kong, revolution of our times.” On Sunday, down the road from Pastor Chan’s polling station, a group of young people dressed in black clothing and yellow hard hats campaigned for pro-democracy candidate Vincent Lam. Login Wong, 26, held up a banner similar to the ones riot police raise to warn passersby of tear gas, except Wong’s banner said, “Warning: Vote today!”