Hong Kong residents have voted in record numbers for a bitterly contested legislative election, with a push for independence among a disaffected younger generation of candidates and voters stoking tension with China's Government.

Hong Kong's pro-democracy opposition is hoping to maintain a one-third veto bloc in the 70-seat legislative council in the face of better mobilised and funded pro-Beijing and pro-establishment rivals.

Voters flocked to cast ballots in huge numbers with some having to wait several hours after the close of polling to cast ballots at a few particularly congested polling stations.

"Hong Kong is really chaotic now. I want to do something to help," said 28-year-old Maicy Leung, who was in a snaking queue of several hundred. "It's to help the next generation and to help myself."


The former British colony was handed back to China in 1997 under a "one country, two systems" agreement that promised to maintain the global financial hub's freedoms and separate laws for at least 50 years, but gave ultimate control to Beijing.

The Electoral Affairs Commission said 58 per cent of the city's 3.8 million eligible voters had cast ballots, up from 53 per cent in 2012 and the highest turnout for any legislative election since 1997.

The turnout reflected the city's heightened political discontent and urgent appeals by candidates, some from new radical groups, jostling for extra votes in a highly competitive poll.

Much attention focused on a group of about 20 pro-democracy "localists" pushing a more radical, anti-China agenda who could become a fledgling new force in the legislature.

Despite the disqualification of six pro-democracy election candidates from the election in July on the grounds that they supported independence, preliminary results showed several localists and young democrats likely winning seats.

Full results are not expected till later today.

"The city's political spectrum has been stretched wider," said Wong Yuk Man, the head of Civic Passion, a radical pro-democracy group, who was vying for a seat. "It shows Hong Kong people are trying to get away from China, and from the Chinese Communist Party."

- Reuters, AAP