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District Council polls seen as final piece in principle of 'patriots governing HK'

By AMBER WU,SHADOW LI and WILLIAM XU in Hong Kong | CHINA DAILY | Updated: 2023-12-11 08:02
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Hong Kong residents pose for pictures outside a polling station after casting their votes for the 7th District Council Ordinary Election of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (HKSAR) in Hong Kong, China, Dec 10, 2023. [Photo/Xinhua]

The Hong Kong Special Administrative Region's 7th District Council Ordinary Election, which was held on Sunday, was the final piece in the full implementation of the principle of "patriots governing Hong Kong", and the voting, which carries far-reaching implications for Hong Kong, is relevant to every resident in the city, the SAR's leaders and voters said.

A total of 399 candidates ran for 176 seats in the 18 District Committees' constituencies and 88 seats in the 18 geographical constituencies. The rest of the 470 district council seats will be filled by 179 appointed members and 27 ex officio members. They will hold office for four years starting on Jan 1.

Polling began at 8:30 am. The total turnout rate at District Committees' constituencies was nearly 97 percent, with more than 2,450 people casting votes, before polling for those constituencies ended at 2:30 pm. Polling for the geographical constituencies was expected to end around midnight.

After casting his ballot in the morning, HKSAR Chief Executive John Lee Ka-chiu said the election represented the final piece in the full implementation of the principle of "patriots governing Hong Kong".

Lee said that as nongovernmental organizations, district councils are set to be made up of patriots who will not betray the interests of the country, the city or the community. The reforms on district councils, approved by the city's legislature on July 6, will ensure that the painful experiences during the social unrest in 2019 will not recur.

With governance at the district level improved, the new-term district councilors will be aligned with the interests of both the nation and the Hong Kong SAR, and priority will be given to the districts' welfare, he said.

Lee said he appreciates the efforts of more than 30,000 civil servants who were deployed across the 600 polling stations to ensure that the election was conducted in a fair, orderly and efficient manner.

Chief Secretary for Administration Eric Chan Kwok-ki, Financial Secretary Paul Chan Mo-po, Secretary for Justice Paul Lam Ting-kwok and other officials of the SAR also cast their ballots early in the day, and urged voters to actively exercise their rights for building a better Hong Kong.

David Lok Kai-hong, chairman of the Electoral Affairs Commission, who inspected a polling booth in Yau Tsim Mong district on Sunday morning, expressed confidence that the election would be conducted in an open, honest and fair manner.

Martin Liao Cheung-kong, a Hong Kong barrister and lawmaker, highlighted the changes in this year's election. After the reform, candidates in this year's election were running based on their election platforms, as well as their experiences in and enthusiasm for district services, he said.

The chaos of the past, when district affairs took a back seat to political confrontations, is truly over and the new-term district councils will be able to focus on regional consultation and community services, Liao said.

Michael Grimsey, a Hong Kong resident and law firm employee, said he prefers candidates who are dedicated to serving the region and have patriotic sentiments for the country and the SAR. He emphasized that the utmost priority for Hong Kong at present is long-term stability.

Grimsey called on the prospective new-term councilors to prioritize issues of subdivided units and the shortage of public housing, offering young people a sense of optimism for the future.

Early on Sunday, Lam Gwong-kin, a Hong Kong lawyer based in Guangzhou, Guangdong province, returned to the city's Sheung Shui to vote in one of the four near-boundary polling stations, which were established for the first time to cater to the needs of those residing on the Chinese mainland, or those aspiring to go to the mainland on polling day.

Noting the diversity among candidates, Lam said he believes that the new-term district council members will serve the community and the city. He also expressed appreciation for the availability of free shuttle buses and the help received from the polling staff for a hassle-free voting experience.

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