Voting is underway in Hong Kong marking the first elections since pro-democracy protests broke out in 2014. The parties vying for seats in the Legislative Council are divided over relations with China making the elections crucial.
The pro-democracy opposition which currently has 27 seats in the 70-member assembly is hoping to do better or retain its strength in order to hold a one-third veto power. Polling stations have been busy right since morning despite a hot and humid day in the semi-autonomous region. The turnout will also be critical for the outcome as the newly formed radical groups hope to capitalise on the young voters' growing anti-China sentiments.
Polling stations opened at 7.30 am local time (11.30 GMT) with more than half of the seven million population eligible to vote. Though the results will not have any direct bearing on Chief Executive C Y Leung, it is likely to have a significant impact on his second term.
The elections are seen as the most crucial since Britain handed over Hong Kong to China in 1997. Since then the region has been specially administered on the basis of "one country, two systems".
"Democracy is reflected in the freedom of choices of the voters. The electors can have their own choice. There is no need for other people to teach them how to vote," said Leung after casting his vote.
It is not possible for pro-democracy groups to gain a majority in the Legislative Council as only 40 seats are up for grabs while the remaining 30 are nominated to represent special trades who usually favour China. Nonetheless, the pro-independence parties do not want to allow a two-thirds majority for pro-Beijing groups in order to prevent them from implementing radical policy changes.