Hong Kong Pro-Democracy Activists Hold Council Elections

People wearing face masks queue up to vote in Hong Kong, July 11, 2020, in an unofficial “primary” for pro-democracy candidates ahead of legislative elections in September.

Pro-democracy politicians and activists in Hong Kong urged people to vote this weekend in informal primary elections to choose candidates who could run for legislative council seats in September.

Members of Hong Kong’s opposition camp set up hundreds of polling booths Saturday, despite warnings from authorities that their actions could violate a new security law imposed by China.

In addition to allowing security agents from mainland China to operate officially in Hong Kong for the first time, the law outlaws what Beijing describes as secession, subversion, terrorism and collusion with foreign forces.

Beijing enacted the law on June 30 in response to Hong Kong’s pro-democracy protest movement, sparking widespread concern that wide-ranging freedoms Britain granted to the semi-autonomous territory before returning it to China in 1997 will be crushed.

Thousands of people lined up Saturday in the summer heat outside polling stations, one day after police searched the offices of a group involved in organizing the weekend election.

The get-out-the-vote campaign is an informally organized effort to select democracy candidates who have the best chance of capturing legislative council seats during an official vote scheduled for September 6.

Democracy candidates would need to win more than 35 of the 70 council seats to regain the power to block government proposals.

Joshua Wong, a prominent pro-democracy activist who is running in the informal primary election, called on residents to cast ballots this weekend in resistance of China.

The last formal popular vote in Hong Kong took place in November 2019 for lower level district council seats, resulting in landslide victories for many pro-democracy candidates.