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Turnout low in Hong Kong elections

Disillusioned by their leaders and a system that still heavily favors vested interests, Hong Kong residents turned out in far smaller numbers than expected on Sunday to vote in the second legislative election since this former British colony reverted to Chinese rule in 1997.

Roughly 1.3-million people, or 43 percent of registered voters, went to the polls on a balmy, late-summer day. Two years ago, in the first post-colonial election, nearly 1.5-million people, more than 53 percent of voters, braved a torrential downpour to vote.

Experts attributed the low turnout to a variety of factors, not the least the weather, which they said filled Hong Kong's playgrounds and beaches at the expense of its polling booths. But most agreed that widespread unhappiness with the territory's Beijing-appointed government had alienated voters.

"Of course, we are not satisfied," said Tung Chee-hwa, the chief executive, as he visited the counting center in the Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Center after polls closed at 10:30 p.m.

Tung noted that elections are a relatively new phenomenon in Hong Kong, adding, "The development of our political system will slowly mature."

In Sunday's voting, the pro-democracy parties appeared to retain the largest block of directly elected seats in the legislature, based on exit polls. But the main pro-Beijing party, the Democratic Alliance for the Betterment of Hong Kong, seemed likely to increase its seats, from five to eight.


SRI LANKAN ASSAULT: Sri Lankan government forces destroyed 14 rebel bunkers near northern Jaffna on Sunday, killing 70 guerrillas and losing 12 soldiers, a military spokesman said. It was the second big offensive in the past week _ part of a new push to secure military positions around Jaffna ahead of the Oct. 10 parliamentary elections, the spokesman said.

MUGABE SUED: Zimbabwe President Robert Mugabe's office dismissed a $400-million lawsuit filed in the United States accusing the Zimbabwean leader of violence and human rights abuses, calling the suit a "non-event." Mugabe was handed the suit Thursday as he entered a church in Harlem just before delivering a speech there, margins of the U.N. Millennium Summit held in New York. The lawsuit, filed in federal court in New York, says Mugabe orchestrated violence ahead of June parliamentary elections.

RUSSIAN NUCLEAR SHUTDOWN: A nuclear power plant in Siberia was shut down after an unexplained power surge, officials said Sunday. No radiation leaks were reported. The shutdown did not present any danger and no other damage was registered. The plant is to be switched back on today.

ITALIAN FLOODING: Rain-swollen waters of a stream swept through a campground filled with disabled campers in the southern region of Calabria before dawn Sunday, killing at least 10 people and injuring dozens as they slept, authorities reported.

TRAIN CRASH: At least 16 people were killed and dozens injured in a train crash on Indonesia's main island of Java, news reports said Monday.

A packed passenger train collided head-on Sunday with a freight train near Ketanggan village, about 330 miles east of Jakarta, the Jakarta Post said.