Hong Kong protests: Voter registration surges over extradition bill crisis

Taina PuddefootWong Tsui-kai

Nearly 386,000 new voters have registered in biggest gain since at least 2003

Taina PuddefootWong Tsui-kai |

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The spike in young voters may have been sparked by the extradition bill protests.

Hundreds of thousands of Hongkongers are signing up to vote amid the extradition bill crisis.

According to figures released on Thursday by the Registration and Electoral Office, nearly 386,000 people have registered to vote in the past year – the most since at least 2003 – bringing the number of voters in the city to 4.12 million.

Hongkongers aged between 18 and 35 have come out as the most receptive group to the protesters’ campaign to sign up voters to push out pro-government politicians in upcoming elections. The group grew by 12.3 per cent from 2018, the biggest increase of all age groups and exceeding the overall rise of 8 per cent.

Speaking to Young Post, a newly registered voter studying at Edinburgh University, in Britain, who did not want to be named, said: “I registered because I love my home. It is the revolution of our times, liberate Hong Kong.” Another international school student, who recently turned 18, said: “I was at the Immigration Department and there were people offering me a form to fill out. I did it because why not!”

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Voters aged 71 and above were the second biggest registration group, jumping by 8.7 per cent from last year. The age group between 56 and 70 increased 7.1 per cent, and new voters between 36 and 55 increased 5.5 per cent.

“Most of these newly registered voters – despite not being all young – are dissatisfied by the government’s handling of the bill,” said Dr Cheung Chor-yung, a political scientist at City University. “They could make a fairly huge impact in the upcoming elections if they are determined to vote out the conservative candidates.”

Cheung said young people, compared to the older voters, were generally less eager to cast ballots in local polls, as reflected in turnout rates. “The spike in young voters is definitely driven by the anti-bill protests,” he said. “They realise that if they are to exercise their political power, they have to vote – as well as participate in marches and frontline struggles.”