Voting is slated to continue for the next 10 days, but participation has already far exceeded what organizers of the Occupy Central movement had hoped for. As recently as last week, leaders had said they would consider the exercise a success if at least 100,000 people took part.
According to the Basic Law, Hong Kong residents are to be able to vote directly for their city's chief executive in 2017. But the voting rules have not been settled yet, and organizers of this month's referendum fear that the mechanism that will be proposed by mainland authorities will fall short of full democracy. They mostly worry that candidates who are unacceptable to China's rulers will be screened out by a selection committee stacked with pro-Beijing members.
Organizers of the movement, whose full name is Occupy Central with Peace and Love, have threatened to stage a nonviolent mass sit-in in the city's financial district, known as Central, if the ultimate election rules fail to meet their expectations.
In the run-up to Friday's balloting, local opponents of Occupy Central launched a campaign aimed at dissuading people from participating. A video released by the group Silent Majority, which said it commissioned a traffic impact study, warned that a civil disobedience campaign in which 10,000 blocked the streets of Central would paralyze the city.
"Occupy Central – they can kill this city," the video concludes. "The question is, do we let them?"
This week, the website of Apple Daily, the local newspaper that has expressed support for the movement, was hit by hacking attacks.