Hong Kong voters brave rain for historic elections
May 24, 1998
Rescue workers round up hundreds whose homes were
flooded in remote areas
Web posted at: 12:25 p.m. EDT (1625 GMT)
HONG KONG (CNN) -- Despite torrential rains, voter turnout
was high Sunday for Hong Kong's legislative elections -- the
first multi-party vote in a region of communist China.
Exit polls indicated that the Democrats and their allies
would win about 60 percent of the 20 seats that were to
be directly elected. Martin Lee's Democratic Party was
tipped to win nine seats; other pro-democracy groups and
candidates stood to gain three or four seats as well.
A radio report said up to 1,000 people had been stranded by
floodwaters in Hong Kong's rural New Territories. Officials
reported 47 people had been evacuated by helicopter and that
firemen used boats to evacuate another 66 people, eight of
whom were slightly injured and taken to hospitals.
Despite the flooding, more than 1.3 million people, or 49
percent of registered voters, had cast ballots for the new
60-seat legislative council that will replace the temporary
Beijing-appointed body. That was well above a 35.8 percent
turnout in the last election under British rule in 1995.
The Hong Kong Observatory said more than 300 millimeters (12
inches) of rain had fallen in some areas near the boundary
with the Chinese mainland.
Some of the heaviest rain seen in Hong Kong this year aroused
fears that voters would be deterred from venturing to the 496
polling stations manned by 13,000 civil servants.
Voters brave the storm to elect a new 60 seat
legislative council for the first time under Chinese rule
Government officials, hoping for a strong turnout, urged the
public to brave the storms.
"I would like to appeal to everybody to come and vote," said
Tung Chee-hwa, Hong Kong's chief executive.
"Despite the somewhat bad weather, for everyone to come and
vote to exercise your right to vote."
Nonetheless, the rain disrupted voting in some polling
places. One was closed because of chest-high water. In
another, staff stood on chairs to keep dry and voters waded
in knee-deep water to cast their votes.
The Democratic Party in Hong Kong
Martin Lee of the Democratic Party and other pro-democracy
figures were expected to win seats in the 60-member
Legislative Council, or Legco. They were forced out of the
elected body that was disbanded as Britain handed over its
colony last July.
Only 20 of the seats in the new Legco are directly elected,
and Lee and his colleagues are expected to be a minority on
the council, outnumbered by China-friendly members.
"This is a most important day in the history of modern China,
because this is the first time there is some element of
democratic elections, one third of the seats, which will be
democratically elected by Chinese people on Chinese soil,"
"We must remember that there are still 1.2 billion of our
compatriots on mainland China who are still denied their
right to vote," added Lee, who was once denounced by Beijing
as a subversive for his criticism of China.