More than 1,000 Beijing supporters in Hong Kong held a rally in Wan Chai on Saturday demanding the government recount votes cast in the district council elections, in which the pro-establishment camp suffered a humiliating loss.
Some participants, waving miniature national flags, vented their anger at the media, shoving reporters covering the rally at Harbour Road Garden.
Police said there were 1,500 people at the rally at its peak, while organisers did not give any estimate of the turnout.
The rally came after the pro-establishment camp won just 60 of the 452 seats in the elections held two weeks ago, a huge drop from 292 previously. They lost control of 17 of the 18 district councils, amid civil unrest in the city.
Themed “Loving the country, safeguarding Hong Kong”, the rally started with the crowd facing north and singing the national anthem. Chinese flags were distributed at the scene, turning the area into a sea of red.
It was held a day ahead of a march organised by the city’s biggest pro-democracy group, the Civil Human Rights Front.
Organiser Johnny Tam Ming-kin, a non-party-affiliated property agent, said the main goal of Saturday’s rally was to demand a recount in the polls.
“We hope the government can recount and show us the election results are true. Many of us feel the elections were unfair and not transparent,” Tam said. “But if they recount and the result is still the same, then we can accept that it is the pro-establishment camp who have some shortcomings and need to reflect on their strategies.”
In response, the Electoral Affairs Commission said the counting of votes had been conducted in an open and transparent environment, under public scrutiny. Its spokesman said anyone could file a petition questioning the result.
Tam said he was not disappointed in the government of Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor, but neither did he have any expectations from it any more.
On the stage, he claimed some ballot boxes were unlocked during the poll and some election agents failed to monitor the whole counting process. But he did not say if he had filed an official complaint with the commission.
No major pro-establishment parties attended the rally, but speakers included Tang Tak-shing, chairman of the group Politihk Social Strategic, and restaurant owner and YouTuber Alex Yeung Kwun-wah, who was under investigation in Singapore after hosting a political talk.
Among the participants, who were mainly middle-aged and elderly, was a 40-year-old secretary, who declined to give her name.
“I am here because I feel the election results don’t make sense. After all these years of voting, it is not possible that this is the result,” she said, adding that she saw reports that observers had not been present throughout the count.
“I don’t accept the results, but I think there is very little a normal citizen like myself can do.”
Some of the participants were hostile towards reporters at the scene, many holding posters that read “We hate fake news”. At least six reporters from various media outlets, including pro-Beijing newspaper Ta Kung Pao, were reportedly surrounded, verbally abused, and shoved.
Protesters also surrounded a man carrying a Taiwanese flag as he walked by. One grabbed the flag and tore it off the flagpole, while others chased after the man as he tried to leave the scene. Riot police arrived to break up the scuffle, and the man escaped unscathed.
When asked about the clashes with reporters, Tam said people were emotional and many did not believe all the reporters were genuine.