Lord Alton is urging the Hong Kong government to listen to the people after a historic turn out in local elections that saw a landslide victory for pro-democracy parties.
Although the elections were for the 18 district councils, they were largely seen as a test of support for Carrie Lam and the Hong Kong government after six months of protests and unrest.
The election turnout reached a historic 71%, with more than 2.9m people casting their votes, a dramatic increase from the 47% turnout in 2015.
According to local media reports, pro-democracy councillors have taken control of 17 of the 18 district councils.
In a statement on Monday, Lam said that the government respected the results, which she said reflected “people’s dissatisfaction with the current situation and the deep-seated problems in society”.
She went on to say that the government would “listen to the opinions of members of the public humbly and seriously reflect”.
Lord Alton was in Hong Kong as part of a team of independent election monitors. He also hand delivered a human rights award to protester Joshua Wong.
He welcomed the peaceful way in which the elections had taken place but criticised the “ill-judged” decision to ban Wong from standing as a candidate.
He said that the elections reflected the “huge appetite” for democracy in the territory and that the Hong Kong government now needed to work towards peace.
“Beijing and their Hong Kong Government mustn’t squander this historic opportunity to build political progress and end months of paralysis,” he said.
“After five months of protests, against the Beijing appointed Administration of Carrie Lam, and massive social unrest, the people clearly saw this as an opportunity to send her a message to strengthen democracy and to listen to their voice.
“The unprecedented enthusiasm for today’s district council elections proves there is a real desire for the election of effective politicians committed to finding peaceful political solutions to the challenges facing Hong Kong.”
Benedict Rogers, co-founder of pro-democracy group Hong Kong Watch and East Asia Team Leader at Christian Solidarity Worldwide, said on Twitter that he had been unable to visit the city because of travel restrictions imposed on him by the authorities.
He was in London where he joined representatives of the Hong Kong community in delivering a letter to Prime Minister Boris Johnson at 10 Downing Street. The letter calls on Britain to take a lead in defending the freedoms promised to Hong Kong in the Sino British Joint Declaration.
In the midst of violent protests, some Hong Kong pastors have been trying to build bridges, going out to the front lines of the demonstrations offering assistance to both the protesters and police.
Alan Keung, a 28-year-old pastor, prays with protesters and serves as a medic helping those who have been injured or hurt by tear gas. He also offers help to injured police officers.
He told the Church Leaders website: “My mission is to bring God’s love to the crowd, to let them know that there’s a pastor who is willing to be together with all of them.”
He added: “I am not someone who merely stays in the church and talks about humanity, justice and morality, and ignores what’s going on at the frontline.
“I want to show my companionship at the frontline and to be in the crowd when I’m needed.”
Another pastor, Ka-Kit Ao, 34, wants the protests to remain respectful.
“But we can’t just sit at home,” he said, adding of the clashes with police, “They might call us cockroaches, but we should refer to them as police officers.”
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