Hundreds of thousands of Hong Kong residents voted in the city’s pro-democracy primaries in protest against China’s new security laws issued two weeks ago.
Almost 600,000 people voted in the unofficial election, higher than organizers’ expectations of 170,000 voters, the Associated Press reported. The organizers reported that 592,000 people voted online, and 21,000 voted with paper ballots, according to Reuters.
The pro-democracy primaries aim to single out the strongest candidates to contest elections in September to Hong Kong’s Legislative Council, which is typically majority pro-Beijing. Pro-democracy activists have vowed to veto the government’s budget if they get a majority in the legislature, according to the news services.
The primaries came weeks after China instituted a national security law prohibiting secessionist, subversive or terrorist activities or foreign intervention in Hong Kong affairs. The law gives police greater powers to conduct searches without warrants and command internet service providers and platforms remove messages.
The voters turned out for the election, after Eric Tsang, Hong Kong’s constitutional affairs minister, cautioned that the primaries could violate the new security law because it bans interfering with the responsibilities of local government, the AP reported.
The law is widely viewed as going against the “one country, two systems” framework that was agreed upon when Britain transferred Hong Kong to Chinese ownership.
“Despite the threat of the national security law, there are still nearly 600,000 people coming out to vote,” Au Nok-hin, one of the organizers of the primaries, said, according to the AP. ”We can see Hong Kongers are really brave.”