Hong Kong: 600,000 votes in opposition primary despite fears of new security law

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Opposition camp hopes to capture historic majority in parliament, through careful coordination to avoid splitting vote for democracy, and advancing through functional constituencies, seats chosen by groups of businesses and professionals who make up half of the legislature.

This would be a difficult task at best, and the government has already hinted that it could exclude dozens of candidates from these elections under the new security law, which criminalizes secession, subversion, terrorism and collusion with foreign forces.

However, the mood of the opposition was boosted considerably on Monday after organizers said some 600,000 votes were cast in the primary elections. This is approximately 27% of the number of people who voted in the last legislative elections, and well above the organizers’ initial target of 170,000.

“The Hong Kong people have made history again,” said Benny Tai, one of the organizers, after the poll ended on Sunday evening. “The people of Hong Kong have demonstrated to the world and to the authorities that we have not given up fighting for democracy.”Erick Tsang, Hong Kong’s secretary for constitutional and continental affairs, said on Friday that the primaries could violate Hong Kong’s new national security law due to the political stance of the candidates, according to Hong Kong public broadcaster RTHK.

“Those who organized, planned or participated in the primary election should avoid carelessly breaking the law,” he said.

Late Friday night, the police raided the offices of the Public Opinion Research Institute, a polling company that helped organize the primary. Organizers denounced the move as an attempt to disrupt the vote or intimidate people, while police said it was linked to advice on potentially hacked data.

The police raid may have helped spread the word about the primary elections, however, news of the event spread throughout the city.

Speaking to the South China Morning Post, a woman who left China for the city 20 years ago said that she participated in the vote because she feared that “Hong Kong would one day become the continent ”

“I was wondering if this would be the last time I would attend such a primary,” Kitty Yau told the newspaper. “But I am not afraid of any” white terror “because I exercise my rights. “

Security Law

There has been a marked cooling of city policy since the adoption of the security law, which was imposed directly by Beijing, bypassing the Hong Kong legislature.

Within hours of its entry into force, several political parties were dissolved, including one founded by prominent activist Joshua Wong. People online have cleaned up social media profiles and deleted accounts, and asked contacts to delete them from WhatsApp messages. Shops and restaurants that had been strong supporters of the anti-government protest movement could be seen hastily removing posters for fear of being prosecuted under the new law.

Although the government has repeatedly insisted that the law will affect only a tiny minority of Hong Kongers and is necessary to protect national security, it has met with wide opposition both in the city and foreign.

Australia joined Canada last week to suspend its extradition treaty with Hong Kong. Canberra said it would also offer a path to citizenship for Hong Kongers, following the UK’s promise to allow some 3 million Hong Kongers to settle there if they wished.

Considerable uncertainty remains around the law, and many groups inside the city who are not directly targeted by it – NGOs, the media and businesses – are waiting to see how it could affect them.

In a survey of 183 companies on Monday, the American Chamber of Commerce found that 76% of those surveyed were concerned about the law, with 40% saying they were “extremely concerned”.

“The regulatory uncertainty is slightly worrying and the current conflict between the United States and China,” said one respondent. “It could lead to a situation where China is arresting people for political reasons. ”

Some 68% of respondents said they had become more concerned with the law as the details emerged, with one respondent stating that “vague language makes the law a perfect tool for governing the law, and already leads to type self-censorship that is so effective in stifling public discourse in China. ”

Respondents said their main concerns about the law were its ambiguity and its potential effect on the independence of the judiciary, and a slim majority, 52%, said they might consider leaving Hong Kong due to the law.

CNN’s Eric Cheung contributed to the report.

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