Hong Kong went to the polls Sunday for the first time since huge pro-democracy protests gripped the city, in a key test of public sentiment. The spotlight is on the district elections to gauge whether support for the democracy movement can translate into votes and bring change to the political landscape. Hong Kong is semi-autonomous after being handed back by Britain to China in 1997, but there are fears that Beijing’s influence is growing. Tens of thousands of protesters took to the streets for more than two months at the end of last year demanding fully free elections for the city’s next leader, in what became known as the “Umbrella Movement”. The rallies were sparked after Beijing insisted candidates for the first public vote for Hong Kong’s leader in 2017 would first have to be vetted by a loyalist committee. Some voters said the democracy movement had motivated them to cast their ballot.
“It’s the little power we have,” said 28-year-old administrator Kris Fong, voting in the northern district of Yuen Long.
Fong said she had chosen a pro-democracy candidate because she felt the city was being “manipulated” by Beijing. She had missed previous elections but said voting this year was more important. “After last year’s umbrella revolution I feel that, however insignificant our vote might be, it’s our only legitimate way to tell the people… up north what we are thinking,” said Fong, referring to powers in Beijing.