No to violence, five demands rally cries ring out for pollsTop News | Angel Kwan 22 Nov 2019
Sunday's district council elections are expected to be the most politically charged ever and seen as a referendum on Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor's governance and the police force.
Two days before some 4.13 million voters decide their next district officials, the city's largest pro-establishment party declared an "emergency" for its candidates.
The Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong held its campaign rally yesterday after keeping it low-key for weeks.
Chairwoman Starry Lee Wai-king declared an emergency for all 181 candidates - usually a last-minute campaign tactic to rally its base - saying "none of the constituencies is invincible."
She said 80 DAB offices were vandalized and urged people to vote for them to say no to violence.
The pro-democracy camp said the elections are a chance for voters to take a clear stance on police brutality while promoting the five demands that protesters have been asking for since June.
The protests forced Lam to withdraw a controversial fugitive bill that would have sent suspects in Hong Kong to stand trial in the mainland.
But Lam has refused to give in to the demands, including the call for an independent investigation into alleged police brutality.
The Neo Democrats' Gary Fan Kwok-wai said the unrest has brought more voters to the pan-democrats as they have connected the demands with their manifesto, while the rival camp has avoided the topic.
He believes the turnout will be high after the sieges of Chinese University and Polytechnic University and protesters' obstruction of traffic as voters have become more "polarized."
The pan-democrats aim to win at least half of the total number of district seats - 226 out of 452 seats.
"But I wouldn't say we are confident," Fan said.
However, it is unclear whether the unrest will translate to an advantage for the pro-democracy camp.
Chinese University political scholar Ivan Choy Chi-keung said "median voters" may be put off by the disruptions.
"The 'strikes' and the two 'battles' in the universities may worry median voters, which may also affect their desire to vote."
Choy said it would be difficult for pan-democrats to achieve their target number of seats as they would need to win 100 seats more than the last election in 2015.
With more teenagers registering as voters, Choy said whether it will benefit the camp will depend on whether they will come out in droves.
"The turnout rate of teens in the last two by-elections is relatively low, compared to other age groups," he said.
Some lawmakers reiterated safety concerns regarding the polls.
But Chief Secretary Matthew Cheung Kin-chung again refused to set a deadline for making the decision of canceling the election or not.
He said the government is monitoring the situation and urged protesters not to block roads so that election officers can go to work on time.