Hong Kong organizers say an unofficial referendum on democratic reform has drawn a relatively high turnout despite an alleged cyber attack. The 10-day poll has enraged Beijing, which has dismissed the poll as a "farce."
As the referendum ended on Sunday, organizers said nearly 800,000 residents had voted online on how the southern Chinese city's leader should be elected from 2017. Results are due in a few days.
Tensions are running high ahead of an annual pro-democracy protest due on Tuesday, the anniversary of Britain's return of the former colony to China in 1997.
A deal at the time granted Hong Kong relative autonomy until 2047 on the basis of "one country, two systems."
Currently, only half of the former British colony's legislators are directly elected from among its city's population of 7.2 million. The rest are chosen by associations stacked with Beijing loyalists.
The referendum called on residents to choose between three methods to pick the territory's chief executive from 2017, when China is supposed to fulfill a promise that all legislators will be directly elected.
'Plot,' says China
Last week China's liaison office in Hong Kong labeled the referendum a "plot by a so-called 'civil disobedience movement'."
The referendum was organized by Occupy Central, a protest group.
A 90-year-old voter who gave his name as Fu said: "Every Chinese should have the right to vote."
"Although people can't do it in China, we can do it in Hong Kong," he added.
Online disruptions last weekend were blamed by organizers on Beijing.
Major accounting firms issued a joint statement on Friday, warning that Occupy Central's initiative would damage Hong Kong's status as a financial hub.
On Friday, several hundred Hong Kong lawyers staged a protest over a central Chinese government policy report that called judges "administrators" who should be loyal to Beijing.
Last year, a senior Beijing official Qiao Xiaoyang said Hong Kong's top official must "love China, love Hong Kong and not seek to confront the central government."
ipj/tj (dpa, AFP)