High Voter Turnout in Hong Kong, Seen as Tied to Protests

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Voters were thronging the polls on Sunday, as around 53% of Hong Kong's registered voters made their voices heard—many having already done so in recent days, in a massive protest movement that took the city's streets. That movement, which saw marches and wide-scale demonstrations by hundreds of thousands of citizens, criticized and demanded the retraction of a plan by the current government to institute so-called "patriotic education" courses as part of mandatory schooling.

The Beijing-backed leader Leung Chun-ying, whose government issued the plan, retracted it on Saturday in the face of the massive protests.

But pro-democracy Civic Party candidate Tanya Chan was still shaking hands with passers-by at a street corner minutes before polls closed at 10:30pm local time. She said the high turnout might not necessarily mean victory for her camp in the tight race.

[Tanya Chan, Civic Party]: [Female, Cantonese]
"It is a very tight and intense election. Obviously some people think that the national education issue can help boost the voting rate. But at this final, most crucial moment, I have to tell voters that this is not necessarily beneficial to the pro-democracy camp."

On Saturday, Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying withdrew the plan for compulsory patriotism classes that protesters described as Chinese Communist Party-style propaganda aimed at indoctrinating children.

Voter and social worker Scarlette Cheng said she chose a politician in the pro-democracy camp, and that for her, at least, it was an issue of values.

[Scarlette Cheng, Social Worker]:
"After the handover, we see how the economy has had its ups and downs, but we still strongly pursue issues related to some of our core values, such as democracy. The national education issue shows us how if we don't fight hard, there is a chance that some voices could overwhelm the voice of democracy."

The high voter turnout is thought to favor the democratic coalition, which needs a third of the seats in order to prevent measures from being pushed through the legislature over their objections.

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