Unofficial Hong Kong reform poll in last day

Democracy "referendum" ending just days before huge numbers of people expected at pro-democracy demonstration.

Last updated: 29 Jun 2014 10:05
Email Article
Print Article
Share article
Send Feedback
More than 760,000 people have voted since the poll opened online earlier this month [AFP]

Hong Kong citizens have voted in the final day of an unofficial referendum on democratic reform, days before a record number of people are expected at an annual pro-democracy protest.

The 10-day poll has seen voters choose how the city's leader should be elected, but it has enraged Beijing with state-run media describing the ballot as "an illegal farce".

Every Chinese should have the right to vote. Although people can't do it in China, we can do it in Hong Kong. 

Fu, 90-year-old voter

More than 760,000 people have voted since the poll opened online earlier this month, the AFP news agency reported, as fears grow that Beijing will backtrack on its promise to allow Hong Kong universal suffrage.

Tensions are running high in the former British colony with upwards of 500,000 people expected to participate in a pro-democracy rally on Tuesday, the anniversary of Hong Kong's handover to China.

Organisers expect this year's march to be the largest since Britain returned the Asian financial centre in 1997, with Beijing promising direct elections for the city's leader in 2017.

Hong Kong's leader is currently appointed by a 1,200-strong pro-Beijing committee and residents are guaranteed civil liberties not enjoyed on the mainland, including free speech and the right to protest.

Turnout for the informal referendum, organised by pro-democracy activists, has exceeded expectations with about 50,000 people casting their vote at polling stations on one day alone.

"Every Chinese should have the right to vote," a 90-year-old voter, who only gave his surname as Fu, told AFP on Sunday morning.

"Although people can't do it in China, we can do it in Hong Kong," he added. 

Another voter, William Chu, said: "We should send a strong message to the government."

Cyber attack

Concerns are rising in Hong Kong that Chinese influence over the semi-autonomous city is increasing, and activists hope the high turnout will put a stronger case for reform.

Poll organiser Benny Tai said on Sunday that after stations close at 1300 GMT, counting will start and the results will be made known to the public in the coming days.

The poll allows residents to choose between three options on how the chief executive ballot should be carried out in three years' time - each of which would allow voters to choose candidates for the top job, and all therefore considered unacceptable by Beijing.

The referendum was organised by protest group Occupy Central, who say they will take over the streets of Hong Kong if the government does not include an element of civil nomination in the election for the city's leader.

The poll's high turnout came despite a major cyber attack that affected electronic voting. Organisers blamed it on Beijing. Earlier this month, Beijing released a white paper reasserting its authority over Hong Kong.


Email Article
Print Article
Share article
Send Feedback
Topics in this article
Featured on Al Jazeera
'Justice for All' demonstrations swell across the US over the deaths of African Americans in police encounters.
Six former Guantanamo detainees are now free in Uruguay with some hailing the decision to grant them asylum.
Disproportionately high number of Aboriginal people in prison highlights inequality and marginalisation, critics say.
Nearly half of Canadians have suffered inappropriate advances on the job - and the political arena is no exception.
Women's rights activists are demanding change after Hanna Lalango, 16, was gang-raped on a bus and left for dead.
Buried in Sweden's northern forest, Sorsele has welcomed many unaccompanied kids who help stabilise a town exodus.
A look at the changing face of North Korea, three years after the death of 'Dear Leader'.
While some fear a Muslim backlash after café killings, solidarity instead appears to be the order of the day.
Victims spared by the deadly disease are reporting blindness and other unexpected post-Ebola health issues.