Voting concludes in Hong Kong with more than 50% turnout

Hong Kong: More than half of Hong Kong's voters participated in elections on Sunday that are pivotal in defining the specially administered Chinese city's political future.

Nearly two million citizens, or roughly 52 per cent of eligible voters, had cast a ballot one hour before polling stations closed late Sunday night, according to the latest official figures.

The elections of lawmakers to serve on Hong Kong's 70-seat unicameral legislature -- the first since mass protests in 2014 to demand greater autonomy from China -- are considered the most important for the city since it ceased to be a British colony and was handed over to China in 1997, EFE news reported.

Voters went to the polls to elect 35 lawmakers representing geographical districts to seats on the Legislative Council, choosing from a record total of 84 lists of candidates. An additional 30 seats are filled by so-called functional constituencies that represent six per cent of the electorate and are strongly influenced by the Chinese government.

Five other at-large seats are chosen via city-wide vote.

The current makeup of the Legislative Council could be altered by the entry into the political arena of young candidates with more radical positions, including those demanding Hong Kong's independence from China.

The elections are considered critical because pro-democracy forces are trying to maintain the minimum one-third of seats necessary to block the government from pushing through unpopular legislation, including an electoral overhaul package.

Some 5,000 police officers were on alert due to possible disturbances during the 15 hours of voting, although no incidents were reported.

The vote count began after Sunday midnight in Hong Kong, with the results expected on Monday.