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Last Updated: Sunday, 12 September, 2004, 19:57 GMT 20:57 UK
Hong Kong poll sees record vote
Voters queue in Hong Kong
Some voters faced long delays
A record number of voters turned out in Hong Kong to choose a new legislative council in the former British colony.

The poll, seen as a test of public feeling towards the Beijing-backed government, saw a 53% turnout.

However exit polls predicted the pro-democracy parties would make only limited gains while the pro-Beijing camp would fare better than expected.

The authorities faced criticisms over long delays at polling stations that were overwhelmed as 1.7m people voted.

Two-hundred thousand more voters took part on Sunday than the previous record turnout eight years ago.

An investigation is under way into what went wrong.

Analysts say it was the most fiercely fought election since the territory was handed back to China seven years ago.

Under the complex election system, only half the seats are chosen by popular vote; the rest are decided by special interest groups that tend to support the government of chief executive Tung Chee-hwa.

The vote will also be seen as a referendum on the aspirations of some Hong Kong residents for more democracy.

The BBC's Chris Hogg in Hong Kong says one headache for leader Tung Chee-hwa looks likely to be a victory for a radical activist known simply as Long Hair, who is best known for staging protests outside it. Results are expected in the coming hours.


Queues formed outside some polling stations where they ran out of ballot boxes during the afternoon.

All 60 seats in Legislative Council up for grabs
Only half are decided by direct elections
Other half reserved for business and professional groups
3.2 million eligible voters

Some voters complained that cardboard boxes without official seals were being used as alternatives.

The government blamed the large ballot papers needed this year because there were so many candidates in some constituencies.

To prevent intimidation, curtains had been removed from polling booths before the ballot got under way after reports that voters had come under pressure to use mobile phone cameras to photograph their ballot to prove how they had voted.


Most attention will focus on the popularly-elected 30 seats to the Legislative Council (known in Hong Kong as LegCo), which has the right to scrutinise legislation.

The other 30 seats are chosen by functional constituencies - which represent various corporate and professional groups (such as doctors, accountants and lawyers) and involve fewer than 200,000 votes.

Critics say the arrangement is undemocratic and dilutes the influence of ordinary voters.

In the outgoing legislature, pro-democracy candidates held 22 seats, against 30 seats held by pro-China politicians.

Earlier this year, China ruled out universal suffrage to select a new chief executive for Hong Kong in three years' time.

Ahead of Sunday's vote, Human Rights Watch accused the Chinese government of creating a "climate of fear" in Hong Kong designed to skew the result.

The BBC's Rupert Wingfield-Hayes
"It appears they have voted emphatically for change"

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How HK legislative poll works
10 Sep 04  |  Asia-Pacific
HK's Tung spurns democracy plea
07 Jul 04  |  Asia-Pacific
Where next for HK's democracy?
27 Apr 04  |  Asia-Pacific
China veto angers HK democrats
06 Apr 04  |  Asia-Pacific


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