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Pro-democracy parties in Hong Kong have won 278 of the first 344 seats

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Hong Kong’s pro-democracy camp was headed for a thumping victory in district council elections, local media reported on Monday, a vote widely seen as a referendum on the Beijing-backed government’s handling of months of violent political unrest.

Counting was still under way following record turnout in Sunday’s elections, but results so far indicated that candidates favouring calls for greater democracy were on course to seize a shock majority of the 452 seats contested, media reports said.

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District councils — which handle community-level concerns such as bus routes and garbage collection — have long been dominated by the pro-Beijing establishment.

The pro-democracy camp hopes weakening that grip would send a message to China and Hong Kong’s unpopular leader Carrie Lam.

Hong Kong has endured months of mass rallies and violent clashes pitting police against protesters who are mobilised by fears that Beijing is whittling away at the semi-autonomous territory’s freedoms, which are unique for China.

Their demands include direct popular elections and a probe into alleged police brutality against demonstrators.

“The voice of the public is loud and clear… We hope the government can heed the protesters’ demands,” Roy Kwong, a member of Hong Kong’s legislature who won a district council seat for the Democratic Party, was quoted as saying by the South China Morning Post.

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Results from 241 races tabulated early Monday by the newspaper showed 201 pro-democracy candidates winning their races as opposed to just 28 pro-Beijing establishment candidates and 12 independents.

– Record turnout –

Analysts had expected pro-democracy candidates to achieve only minimal gains in the councils.

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A record 71 percent of the 4.13 million citizens who registered to vote had cast their ballots, according to Hong Kong’s election watchdog, far higher than the then-record 47 percent who voted in 2015 council elections.

The largely leaderless protest movement started with giant rallies in June against a bill backed by Lam that would have allowed extraditions to China’s opaque justice system.

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The bill was eventually declared “dead” as public pressure grew, but the anger it unleashed sparked wider calls for democracy, which Lam’s government has resisted.

China has said the unrest is being fomented by violent foreign-backed criminals.

Long queues snaked out of polling stations across the territory of around 7.5 million on Sunday.

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“Even though one ballot can only help a little, I still hope it can bring change to society and support street protests in some way,” 19-year-old student Michael Ng, voting for the first time, told AFP.

The vote is the closest Hong Kongers get to direct representation.

The territory’s legislature is elected by a mix of popular vote and industry groups stacked with China loyalists, which ensures Beijing’s control.

But some candidates for next year’s legislative elections will be drawn from district councils, and the bodies also will contribute 117 members to the 1,200-strong Beijing-controlled electoral college that chooses the chief executive.

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Protests died down in the poll run-up after pro-democracy figures urged calm to avoid triggering any delay or suspension of the polls.

No major disturbances were reported during voting.

Chinese state media ran editorials on Sunday urging Hong Kongers “to vote to end violence”.

Campaigning was marred by acrimony, with one pro-democracy candidate having his ear bitten off in an attack, while 17 other candidates of all stripes were arrested over protest-related activities.

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Election authorities also banned leading democracy activist Joshua Wong from running, over his support for Hong Kong “self-determination”.


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Trump supporter Steve Cortes loses it after Rick Wilson brings up war crimes prosecutions

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The spokesperson for the "official" pro-Trump SuperPAC was admonished twice by an MSNBC anchor on Saturday night during a segment on impeachment that quickly went off the rails.

MSNBC anchor Joy Reid was anchoring a Saturday night special titled, "the impeachment trial of Donald Trump."

Her panel included Rick Wilson, the author of the bestselling 2018 book Everything Trump Touches Dies: A Republican Strategist Gets Real About the Worst President Ever and Steve Cortes, the spokesperson for America First PAC.

Wilson explained why Republican senators refuse to stand up to Trump.

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China reports 323 new cases of mysterious virus — as death toll rises to 54

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The number of confirmed deaths from a viral outbreak in China has risen to 54, with authorities in hard-hit Hubei province on Sunday reporting 13 more fatalities and 323 new cases.

The latest numbers from Hubei, the epicentre of the contagion, would put the nationwide total of confirmed infections at 1,610, based on figures previously released by the central government.

President Xi Jinping warned Saturday that China faced a "grave situation" as authorities raced to contain a respiratory illness that has caused the widespread abandonment of Lunar New Year celebrations nationwide and overwhelmed health facilities in Hubei.

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California offers to reimburse Trump for abortions — but he has to free the women from non-disclosure agreements

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The state of California is offering to reimburse President Donald Trump for any abortions he's paid for in the state, but there's a catch.

On Friday, the Office for Civil Rights (OCR) at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) issued a "notice of violation" against the state for mandating universal abortion coverage in health insurance plans sold in the state, which the administration claims is "unlawful discrimination."

“Once again, President Trump’s administration is delivering on his promise to protect human life and all Americans’ freedom of conscience,” HHS Secretary Alex Azar said in a statement.

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