Hong Kong opposition primaries attract thousands despite fear of security law


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Voting Will Decide Opposition Candidates For Election Later This Year

Hundreds of thousands of people in Hong Kong voted for the pro-democracy primaries, despite warnings that it could violate a new security law.

The two-day vote will determine the opposition candidates for the September legislative council elections.

But it is widely seen as a test of opposition to the controversial new law that came into force last month.

The law, which gives the Chinese state new powers over the city, has attracted widespread international condemnation.

China has said the law is necessary to prevent the kind of protests seen in Hong Kong for much of 2019, but critics say it severely restricts freedoms guaranteed to Hong Kong people for 50 years after the end of the British regime in Hong Kong in 1997.

Thousands of voters lined up for a second day on Sunday in more than 250 polling stations across the city. Opposition activists had hoped for a high turnout and early estimates suggested that it had exceeded their expectations.

Organizers set a target of 170,000 voters over the weekend, but officials said more than 500,000 people participated Sunday afternoon.

Voters revealed themselves despite a senior Chinese official suggesting last week that participation in the primary could violate the new security law.

“Those who organized, planned or participated in the primary election should be careful and avoid recklessly breaking the law,” said Erick Tsang, the secretary for continental and constitutional affairs, told the daily Sing Tao Daily.

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Media captionHong Kong residents concerned about new law means “one country, two systems” no longer exists

One of the candidates, Sunny Cheung, told Reuters news agency that a high turnout “would send a very strong signal to the international community that we Hong Kongers will never give up.”

Eddie Chu, a pro-democracy opposition politician, called the vote “a proxy referendum against the national security law”.

The turnout is expected to be announced early Monday, with results to come soon after. But opposition activists fear that authorities will take steps to prevent some candidates from running in September.

“They can arrest or disqualify any candidate they don’t like under national security law without good reason,” said Owen Chow, a young Democratic candidate.

What is the new security law?

The new extended law:

  • Makes Chinese central government and Hong Kong regional government “inciting hatred” illegal
  • Allows closed trials, wiretapping of suspects and the ability to try suspects on the mainland
  • Means that a wide range of acts, including damage to public transport, can be considered terrorism
  • Requires ISPs to release data if requested by police

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