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Hong Kong elections underway amidst China tensions

Hong Kong voters head to the polls Sunday to elect 40 legislators.

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Pedestrians walk past election flags displayed in a street of Hong Kong on September 9, 2012. Hong Kong voters went to the polls in legislative elections seen as a crucial test for the Beijing-backed government, as calls for full democracy grow and disenchantment with Chinese rule surges. (Philippe Lopez/AFP/Getty Images)

Hong Kong voters headed to the polls Sunday to elect 40 members of the region's legislature. It is the first time the country is electing the majority of their political representatives. 

Voters will elect over half of the legislature, with businesses and special interest groups electing the remaining 30 politicians. The government's seats used to be split evenly between citizens and private companies, but 10 new seats have been added this year and put under the jurisdiction of the people, the Associated Press reported

The elections come just a day after Hong Kong's chief executive caved to protests and struck down mandatory pro-China curriculum for the region, the biggest reversal of policy since the government rewrote its budget in March 2011, Bloomberg Businessweek reported

Many concerned teachers, parents and activists called the Chinese courses a form of "brainwashing." 

More from GlobalPost: Hong Kong relents on mandatory Chinese patriotism classes

The upcoming votes will show how much of the country is willing to move towards complete democracy, and how much will remain being the current Beijing-backed government. 

As Reuters explained of Hong Kong's unique political situation:  

Hong Kong is a freewheeling capitalist hub which enjoys a high degree of autonomy, but Beijing has resisted public pressure for full democracy and has maintained a high degree of influence in political, media and academic spheres.

China has said it will allow Hong Kong to elect its leader by 2017 and all lawmakers by 2020, but there has yet to be a firm plan laid out for the transition to a reformed democratic system, the AP reported. 

"Before it didn't matter so much who got in. but this time, I thought it was important to vote to stop people and parties I didn't want from getting into the legislature," a voter named Chan told Reuters at the polls.

Issues including unemployment, government corruption, and the influx of mainland Chinese have dominated the elections, BBC News reported.

Results are expected on Monday. 

More from GlobalPost: Hong Kong hunger strikers take on 'brainwashing' in schools

http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/regions/asia-pacific/120909/hong-kong-elections-underway-amidst-china-tensions