Hong Kong Legco elections live: polls finally close in hotly contested races
Turnout ‘never been like this before’ as figures on pace to exceed those of 2012
This was the South China Morning Post’s rolling coverage of Hong Kong’s 2016 Legislative Council elections as polls were open.
The first Legco polls since the 2014 Occupy protests brought out more than 2.2 million voters.
Our reporters were stationed around the city to report live. For the Post’s latest coverage, please click here.
Finally, all over (2.15am)
By 2.15am the last few voters have cast their ballots and by 2.30am polling stations across Hong Kong have closed their doors.
Michael Leung, the second last voter by number to cast his ballot said he was relieved after waiting more than four hours in line.
“Really don’t know why we had to wait this long. I wonder whether there were any administrative slips,” he said. ”I was very eager to cast this vote as it will affect Hong Kong’s political development.”
1,000 still in line (1.30am)
At 1.30am, an estimated 1,000 people are still queueing to vote at the Eastern District Junior Police Call Clubhouse polling station in Tai Koo Shing. Some have been in the line for nearly four hours and have
brought foldable chairs and snacks. Volunteers distribute bottles of water.
District Councillor Andrew Chiu Ka-yin slammed electoral officials for poor planning. “There are elderly and pregnant voters and people who haven’t even been able to go to the toilet,” he said.
Tai Koo resident Andrew Cheung, 40, a businessman, said: “I’ve been here three hours. Call it a conspiracy or what you like but I really suspect it was a deliberate act to [deter us from voting].
“This was a disproportionately small polling station for so many residents here and they knew that.”
The Lee family, who moved to Tai Koo a year ago, were in line for nearly three hours and said the wait only strengthened their determination to exercise their “civic duty”.
Hundreds still waiting at closing time (10.30pm)
At 10.30 sharp, with polling stations due to close, more than 500 people are still queueing outside the main voting station at Laguna City residential estate in Lam Tin, stretching into a neighbouring shopping mall.
As closing time nears people rush to get in line. There is a heavy police presence and minor tension when an electoral officer sounds out a countdown.
“I just got off the Macau ferry from a business trip and rushed back immediately to cast my vote,” said Ivan Lai Kwan-yin, 27. “This vote is important. I won’t say who I’m voting for this time but I am voting for the right people.”
Stanley Tse, 50, who works in banking, said he was voting late as he wanted to wait and see which of his favoured candidates needed more votes.
Lee Ho-tin, 22, said he had waited late to vote as he thought there would be fewer people. “Who would have guessed the queue would be this long?”
Lee says he wants to vote for candidates in the Democratic Party and Civic Party as he considers himself moderate and does not support radical politics.
Queue doubles in length (10pm)
With less than half an hour to go until polls close in Hong Kong, the queue at a station in Taikoo Shing showed no signs of shortening.
The line at least doubled in size and snaked all around the station’s courtyard as hundreds of eager voters arrived to vote.
Several police officers were deployed to keep the queue organised.
And still they queued... (9pm)
As election day wound down, several hundred people were still queuing to vote at a polling station in Taikoo Shing.
Some in the queue, which looped around an entire block, were agitated and scolded station workers.
“If you knew so many people would come here, why didn’t you organise more people to work at this station?” a man shouted at a worker.
Retiree Ben Lee, 55, said he waited over an hour to get to the head of the queue and blamed the wait on poor government arrangements.
“This has never happened before,” he said. “They already knew a year ago that a nearby polling station wouldn’t be available [today], but still they didn’t do anything. They don’t want people to vote, but I’ll persevere because I don’t like the way they do things.”
Another voter who asked only to be identified by his surname Choy said he came to the polling station once in the afternoon but decided to return in the evening as he thought the queue would be shorter.
“This has never happened before,” he said also. “Last time it only took 10 minutes. This is absolutely ridiculous.”
A station worker said all those who were already lined up would be allowed to vote whereas those arriving later than 10.30pm Sunday would be turned away.
A similarly long queue had formed at a polling station in Heng Fa Chuen.
Meanwhile, the Civic Party urged the Electoral Affairs Commission to be prepared to take steps to ensure those who were still waiting in line by 10:30pm could vote, in light of long queues at several polling stations across Hong Kong.
The party also called on the public to head to polling stations as soon as possible.
Too successful? (7.30pm)
Candidates across the political spectrum – including DAB’s Horace Cheung Kwok-kwan, FTU’s Wong Kwok-hing and Tang Ka-piu, Democratic Party’s James To Kun-sun, Civic Party’s Kwok Ka-ki and Jeremy Tam Man-ho – made emergency appeals urging voters to cast ballots. Some did so as early as 3pm Sunday.
Watch: a last-ditch effort to secure votes
Cheung, contesting a seat on Hong Kong Island, stated: “Please use the ballots in your hands to help the DAB to retain a seat in Hong Kong Island and preserve the constructive force in Legco.”
Appearing in Central at 7.30pm, To urged voters in Hong Kong Island and New Territories East to support his bid to retain his “super seat”.
“We urged people in other parts [of the city] to vote for my party colleague Roy Kwong [Chun-yu], but maybe this call was too successful,” he said. “Now even supporters in my area voted for Kwong.”
To said many thought he was secure because he did well in opinion polls, but he said this was not the case.
“Now there are a few hours left,” he added. “We need to strike a balance. Voters in my area should support me.”
Four years ago, To issued a similar emergency call but ended up garnering more votes than expected.
But he said he did not do well in opinion polls in 2012 and that this time was different.
“This time I started off with more than 30 support in opinion surveys, and Kwong only increased from four per cent to 11 per cent ... That was why I told my supporters in Kowloon West to vote for Kwong,” he said, in a reference to his former constituency.
Democratic Party founding chairman Martin Lee Chu-Ming endorsed To’s call and said the Thunder Go plan was partly to blame.
“The scheme told people to vote either for Leung Yiu-chung or Kwong,” Lee said. “I’m worried that To could lose.”
‘Super seat’ race intensifies (6.45pm)
With just hours left before polls close, six remaining candidates in the “super seat” race were in the home stretch.
Roy Kwong Chun-yu of the Democratic Party and Holden Chow Ho-ding of the pro-Beijing Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong were in Tsuen Wan to make a pre-dinner sweep of votes.
Chow was flanked by DAB party elder Tam Yiu-chung among other members. Tam, who is retiring as a lawmaker, made an “urgent” plea for voters to support Chow in this “critical situation”.
The DAB candidate criticised a move by several pan-democrats to pull out to consolidate votes, likening the move to “reneging on their pledge to voters”.
“You can’t just tell voters you will run and then suddenly pull out,” said Chow. “This is very irresponsible.”
Kwong, making a stopover in his Volkswagen Beetle, said the situation was “tense” and expected the race to be very close between him and Chow.
“We are not just trying to win against Chow but against the power of the Chinese Communist Party backing him,” he said. Kwong.
In contrast to Chow, Kwong commended pan-democratic candidates who abandoned campaigning for the sake of the camp.
“This was a brave and difficult decision,” he said. “We don’t have a [Beijing-backed] vote consolidation system.”
The latest polls suggest a neck-and-neck race between the two. Kwong was to make his final visits on Sunday in Yuen Long, where he is a district councillor, while Chow planned to stop by North Point and Taikoo.
Actress backs localist at rally (6pm)
Demosisto chairman Nathan Law Kwun-chung made an emergency appeal as he hosted a rally at East Point Road in Causeway Bay with veteran actress Deanie Ip.
Ip said there were “not many young people who could speak up for Hong Kong” and described the youngest Legco candidate this year as one who could and possessing “a heart for his and his next generation.”
“He has a true heart and is capable,” she said.
Ip also said more people should come out to vote.
“I don’t know if Hongkongers are lazy, busy or indifferent,” she said. “We should learn about politics, so that our society, ruled by law … can be an example for other countries.”
Ip told the Post it was the first time she had canvassed for a candidate in a poll.
“Whether I am an artist or a mother, I do what I want to do and what I think is right,” she said.
“Not just about winning” (6pm)
Path of Democracy’s founder Ronny Tong Ka-wah criticised several pan-democrats for dropping out of the Legco race just days before the election.
Out canvassing for his party’s Raymond Mak Ka-Chun in Sha Tin, the former Civic Party member said: “Standing for election is not just about winning. I believe it’s also about spreading different political ideas.”
“[If they drop out] it means they don’t believe in their ideas firmly enough,” he added.
Tong also criticised the Thunder Go plan, which he said contravened the principle of a fair and open election.
“It should be up to the voters to decide who they support,” he said. “Voters should not be treated like commodities that can be passed around.”
No love for Thunder Go (5.45pm)
Democratic Party founding chairman Martin Lee Chu-ming and Andrew Wan Siu-kin, the party’s candidate in New Territories West, said the Thunder Go plan urging unity among pro-democracy aspirants based on their likelihood of winning had undercut their performance.
Wan, speaking in Kwai Fong, was ranked third in the latest University of Hong Kong poll and said: “Many voters told me they had voted for others as they thought I was safe.”
He said he would consider making an emergency appeal to voters on Sunday evening.
Lee called on all Democratic Party supporters to stop following the Thunder Go plan and instead vote for the party’s candidates as it was clear Wan was at risk of defeat.
Long queues and waits (5pm)
Over 200 residents were lining up to vote at a polling station in Taikoo Shing.
Some at the head of the queue said they had waited at least 45 minutes to vote.
“It’s never been like this before,” Cherry So, 28, said. “It’s a bit of a wait but I don’t mind. It’s a good thing there’s more people out to vote.”
Watch: more than 200 in line at Taikoo
A polling station worker said staff had been mobilised to shorten the waiting time by splitting the queue into four simultaneous ones and giving priority to elderly voters.
A security employee on the premises said some prospective voters left after seeing the long queue and had decided to return later.
Brave decision praised (5pm)
The controversial Thunder Go plan advised voters to back the Democratic Party’s Ted Hui Chi-fung on Hong Kong Island, which the candidate described as “not a bad idea”.
Hui was out canvassing votes around Times Square in Causeway Bay and accompanied by former chief secretary Anson Chan Fang On-sang and Democratic Party veteran Martin Lee Chu-ming.
“The plan has been scientific and it doesn’t gauge political preference,” he said.
Hui said pan-democratic candidates who abandoned the Legco race had “made a brave decision” for the pro-democracy camp.
“I still face a tough challenge to win,” he said.
Probe into thrown sandwiches (4:30pm)
The police are probing candidate Avery Ng Man-yuen after he allegedly threw sandwiches at Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying on Sunday morning.
The chairman of the League of Social Democrats, running for a seat in Kowloon West, was protesting with several others outside a polling station on Robinson Road in Central around 8am – where Leung cast his vote with wife Regina Leung Tong Chung-yee.
Ng reportedly threw the food at Leung but missed him.
A police source close to the matter told the Post officers recorded Ng’s personal details and would look into the matter.
“We told him that we reserve the right to pursue the matter,” the source said. “We will likely take a statement from him after the election.”
The force listed the case as common assault. No arrests have yet been made.
“Kick out CY Leung” (4pm)
Outside Tai Wai station, the Democratic Party’s Emily Lau Wai-hing called on voters to support her party to “kick out Leung Chun-ying”.
Lau, who is listed in the second position to support her colleague Lam Cheuk-ting, said all the candidates from her party were making “emergency appeals” to voters.
The pan-democratic veteran found the turnout rate to be rather low so far and said she hoped the turnout rate would continue to climb.
“I hope voters will come out to vote and support the Democratic Party,” she said.
Commenting on the Thunder Go scheme, Lau said her party has not paid much attention to it.
“I don’t really know what it’s about. No matter what [their plan is], I will still go out to garner support. It’s not really relevant,” she said.
Call to disregard Thunder Go (3.45pm)
Cyd Ho Sau-lan made an urgent appeal to voters after she was not among the recommended candidates in Benny Tai Yiu-ting’s Thunder Go strategic voting scheme for Hong Kong Island constituency.
The Labour Party veteran said the poll was “not accurate” and “dominated by radicals”.
“People should vote for their original choice,” she said. “Otherwise pan-democrats will not be able to keep three out of the six seats in Hong Kong Island.
Enthusiasm and frustration (3.10pm)
More than 200 young voters were queuing up for up to an hour at a new polling station in Ngau Tau Kok, with those in the long line complaining about poor and inflexible arrangements.
A man surnamed Poon decided to leave upon seeing the long queue. “I have to start work soon,” he explained. “I won’t be able to vote today.”
A woman in her 20s surnamed Wong, claiming to have waited an hour, described the arrangement as “really poor”.
While some young voters expressed enthusiasm about voting, they complained officials were inflexible in accommodating them, such as opening only one lane for people holding ID cards starting with Y and Z.
A man surnamed Tang, waiting outside the station for his daughter, in her 20s, who was inside, said: “No polling station in any country would pose such a significant inconvenience for those wanting to vote. Is the government trying to stop people voting?”
Long Hair on the hustings (3.05pm)
Legislator “Long Hair” Leung Kwok-hung has been out on the hustings for his allies in Hong Kong Island and Kowloon East – but not in his own base New Territories East.
The League of Social Democrats’ veteran said he was not giving up his campaign, although opinion polls show he could be at risk of losing.
“My allies need a boost while I enjoy higher popularity,” Leung said as he flanked People Power’s Tam Tak-chi at Ngau Chi Wan at 2.30pm. My supporters don’t just look at what I do today, but what I’ve been doing.”
Leung criticised Benny Tai’s Thunder Go scheme of strategic voting, saying it would skew election results.
Watch: election day in Hong Kong
Localists cautiously optimistic (3pm)
Hong Kong Indigenous’ Edward Leung Tin-kei said he understood that Youngspiration’s Baggio Leung Chung-hang might not be able to win the same number of votes as he did during the by-election.
“But as long as we have enough to win a seat then it’s alright,” he said from Ma On Shan.
On the recent infighting within the localist camp, Edward Leung said he did not think it would have a significant impact on the Youngspiration candidate’s chances.
“In fact, the differences we have [with other localist groups] show that our ideas are actually different from theirs,” he said.
The Hong Kong Indigenous spokesman, however was less understanding of the Thunder Go plan, which he criticised as “unscientific”.
“Anyone can join the Telegram group and there are so many flaws in how they make their calculations,” he said of the mobile app on which the plan relied. “How can it be trustworthy? It’s really useless.”
Baggio Leung Chung-hang echoed Leung’s assessment of ThunderGo.
But the Youngspiration candidate was not concerned about the plan’s recommendations.
“Our supporters don’t really pay attention to [ThunderGo], so I don’t think it’ll affect my chances very much,” he said.
Leung of Youngspiration said he was slightly disappointed by the turnout rate so far.
“So many things have happened in the past few months and the turnout rate is lower than I expected,” he said, adding that if the turnout rate increased later, it should work in his favour.
“A high turnout rate means that there are more first-time voters coming out to vote,” he said.
Voters receiving transport help (2.30pm)
A number of elderly voters were seen being ferried to the polling station in Kwai Chung on Sunday afternoon. One man who had difficulty moving about was accompanied by two ladies to the polling station at HKTA The Yuen Yuen Institute No. 1 Secondary School in Shek Lei.
He eventually was guided by the station’s staff to leave after a social worker found he could not even line up for registration.
Meanwhile, two other elderly voters were ferried to the station from Oi Tak Old People’s Home. A middle-aged man who helped them was later seen across the street giving out promotional cards for DAB candidates Ben Chan Han-pan and Holden Chow Ho-ding.
The turnout rate for Hong Kong’s Legislative Council elections on Sunday morning was slightly higher than that of the corresponding period in 2012.
Ivan Choy Chi-keung, a political scientist at the Chinese University, was confident the turnout rate would surge in the evening, claiming many voters would come out to support their candidates based on exit polling results.
At 3.30pm, the overall turnout rate for the general election in five geographical constituencies districts was 26.93 per cent – higher than the 25.46 per cent notched at that time in 2012 – with 1.01 million voters having cast their ballots.
Overall, the number of voters who had cast their ballots was higher than 641,022 in the first six hours in the 2012 Legco polls. The total turnout rate for that poll was 53.05 per cent.
A total of 3.78 million registered electors are eligible to cast their vote in the Legco elections at 571 ordinary polling stations and 24 dedicated polling stations across Hong Kong.
There are 213 candidates belonging to 84 lists who are competing for 35 seats in the five geographical constituencies.
Watch: Legco elections explained in three minutes
“The turnout rate so far was actually not bad and the number of voters who had cast ballots was higher than the corresponding period four years ago,” Choy said. “The eventual turnout rate will be relatively high in the light of fierce competition among rival camps and intense mobilisation by candidates.”
Choy, who has been studying the city’s elections for more than two decades, believed a substantial number of voters would choose to go to polling stations after 5pm to support candidates who was in an uncertain and even critical situation.
New People’s Party chairwoman Regina Ip Lau Suk-Yee, seeking re-election in Hong Kong Island, said it was too early to say if the turnout rate would be unfavourable to her.
“It’s too early to say,” she aid. “The weather is good today. Maybe people will vote after playing ball games in the morning.”
Meeting a group of supporters at Taikoo, Ip said there was no room for complacency even though she was doing well in opinion polls before Sunday.
“We cannot make a judgment yet because there are people saying that I have enough votes, but I urge voters to support me anyway,” she said.
Priscilla Leung Mei-fun, a candidate for Kowloon West, echoed Ip’s call for voters to turn out on Sunday.
“Don’t count on polls. Don’t count on other people voting,” she said during an appearance in Mei Foo. “Because if everyone is slacking and does not show up to cast their votes, we will end up being in a very dangerous position.”
Choy said some voters might choose to go to polling stations later because of their plans for strategic voting to ensure the largest number of candidates whose political aspirations they supported were returned.
Occupy Central co-founder Benny Tai Yiu-ting had mapped out a “Thunder Go plan” for pan-democrats to grab half of the seats in this year’s Legislative Council election.
Tai, an HKU law professor, was confident that non-establishment candidates could win half the 70 seats up for grabs, provided they put aside their sectoral interests and personal agendas to work under a concerted strategy. Tai had urged the pan-democrats to sign up at least 10,000 voters in each of the five geographical constituencies. They would withhold their ballots until the last moment, to vote tactically in response to exit poll results.
But eventually only 25,000 voters across five constituencies signed up for the ambitious plan.
Localist Wong Yeung-tat slammed Tai’s scheme for strategic voting, which recommended strategic voters elect a different radical, Tam Tak-chi, in Kowloon East instead of him in order to uphold the pan-democrats’ critical minority in Legco.
This came after Tai announced on Sunday that more than 70 per cent of those who took part in his internal poll through Telegram said they did not choose Wong.
“This is crazy,” the Civic Passion candidate told the Post while canvassing for votes in San Po Kong. “Other polls show I am competing for the last seat with Paul Tse Wai-chun. If Benny Tai made that appeal he would in turn help Paul Tse win.”
In some polling stations, there were notably more middle-aged voters queuing to take their ballots.
At Sha Tin Town Hall, there were more than a dozen waiting at the three registration queues for voters with identity card number heading with alphabet D to E, F and G to K.
Katherine Ma, 50, who works for a tertiary institution in Hong Kong, said she spent 20 minutes in total to make her vote as she queued at the category G to K.
“It took me 10 minutes to get my identity card registered and another 10 minutes to wait for the ballot paper for my super seat vote,” she said. “It wasn’t this long in the past.”
Choy said it was notable that, unlike previous elections, young voters this year signalled they were more inclined to come out to vote in the evening on polling day.
For a full list of Legco candidates, please click here.