Hong Kong just had a peaceful Sunday, thanks to an election

Voters line up around a square at a Hong Kong polling station.
Voters line up around a square at a Hong Kong polling station.
Image: Reuters/Athit Perawongmetha
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Today, Hong Kong took a break from six months of protests, tear gas, and violent clashes, as millions took part in a local council election normally seen as low-stakes.

Early results suggested pro-democracy candidates would sweep the election among a record turnout of more than 2.9 million people (71% of the city’s registered voters), the Washington Post reported. Many see the vote as a de facto referendum on chief executive Carrie Lam’s pro-Beijing administration.

Pro-establishment candidates currently run the city’s 18 toothless councils, having won 54% of the vote in 2015. This is the first time all 452 seats have been contested, the South China Morning Post reported. Last election, 66 candidates ran unopposed.

Lines at some polling stations were hundreds of people deep, but there was little police presence. Even the Hong Kong Polytechnic University—where this time last week radicals were throwing molotov cocktails at police—was calm, the SCMP reported. Some who lived in the district near the university were reportedly forced to travel an hour, passing through three different districts to cast their votes, after the polling station was moved for security reasons.

In the end, the most noteworthy event at the university was a press conference in which two protestors urged people to vote, the Post reported.

The protests kicked off in June, when Lam tried to pass a bill allowing Beijing to extradite Hong Kongers to the mainland, but quickly spiraled into a broader pro-democracy movement. Activists are calling for full political autonomy, an inquiry into police brutality, and amnesty for those arrested at protests.