More than 4 million voters in Hong Kong will head to the ballot box on Sunday (24 November) as the financial hub city holds its district council elections.
It will be the first governmental polls since the social unrest began in the city in June.
District councils, which have a four-year term, are lower level governments responsible for many local issues.
Nearly six months of anti-government protests have rocked the city and this poll is likely to act as a kind of referendum on the movement and its demand for a full democracy.
“The election will be the barometer to reflect the social sentiment and also whether people support the government or the protesters, or they are tired of the violence,” said Bruce Lui, Senior Lecturer at the Department of Journalism, Hong Kong Baptist University.
For his part, Lokman Tsui, assistant professor of communication at the Chinese University of Hong Kong, noted: “It is one of the few avenues we have left to express our voice. When you are continually and structurally being disenfranchised, you hold onto any right you have left.”
The elections will come at the end of a week of increasingly violent protests. On Friday morning, around eight protesters who had been holding out at a trashed Hong Kong university surrendered, “while others searched for escape routes past riot police who surrounded the campus but said there was no deadline for ending the standoff,” reported Reuters.
The protests grew from June after years of resentment over what many residents perceive as “Chinese meddling in freedoms promised to Hong Kong when the former British colony returned to Chinese rule in 1997.”
The protesters are now demanding full democratic rights, despite now being governed by Beijing.
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