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Hong Kong Holds Key Legislative Polls

by VOA News September 09, 2012

Hong Kong is awaiting results of legislative polls that will shed light on how much support there is for pro-democracy and pro-Beijing camps.

Residents cast their ballots on Sunday, directly choosing more than half of the legislative seats for the first time since Beijing regained control of the former British colony in 1997.

Voters will fill 40 of the 70 seats in the new legislative council. The others will be filled by small groups of electors.

Results are expected on Monday.

Beijing has promised to allow Hong Kong to become a full democracy, allowing residents to choose their own leader by 2017 and full legislature by 2020.

However, there is no roadmap for the plan and some residents have become increasingly worried about mainland China's influence on the semi-autonomous territory.

Thousands protested in Hong Kong last week against plans by its Beijing-backed leader to force students to take Chinese patriotism classes.

The leader, Leung Chun-ying, scrapped the plan on Saturday.

"Yesterday, I announced the policy changes of Moral and National education after I had listened to various educational groups," he said. "I believe the new policy can meet a wide range of ideas and should be able to get the largest consensus."

Many feared the classes were a ploy by Beijing authorities to indoctrinate the city's young into unquestioning support of China's Communist Party.

Besides the protests over the education policy, analysts say Hong Kong voters are also concerned about corruption, unemployment and the growing number of visitors from mainland China.

In 1997 Britain handed Hong Kong back to Beijing as a semi-autonomous territory with broad rights and freedoms.

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