Young anti-China activists victorious
A NEW generation of young Hong Kong politicians advocating a break from Beijing became lawmakers for the first time yesterday in the biggest poll since mass pro-democracy rallies in 2014.
A record 2.2 million people voted in the legislative election as fears grow Beijing is tightening its grip on the semi-autonomous city.
It was the highest turnout since Hong Kong was returned to China by Britain in 1997 and comes as tensions have reached unprecedented highs over Beijing interference.
Hong Kong’s freedoms were protected for 50 years in the handover agreement, but many believe they are disappearing.
Young activists particularly have lost faith in the “one country, two systems” deal under which the city is governed, which grants it much greater liberties than the mainland.
That disillusion, exacerbated by the failure of the 2014 rallies to win reform, has spawned a slew of new parties calling for more autonomy.
As results rolled in, four of the new breed of candidates were confirmed to have won seats, with a fifth also on course for victory.
Among them was Nathan Law, 23, leader of the 2014 “Umbrella Movement” rallies, who came second in his constituency.
Hong Kong is split into five constituencies, each with several seats in the Legislative Council (LegCo), Hong Kong’s lawmaking body.
Mr Law and his new party Demosisto are calling for a referendum on independence, emphasising Hong Kongers’ right to choose whether they want to split from China.
“I think Hong Kongers really wanted change,” Mr Law said, celebrating his win.
With the pro-democracy camp divided between those who back the idea of possible independence and those who are more wary of the once taboo notion, Mr Law said he would seek unity.
“We have to be united to fight against the [Chinese] Communist Party,” he told AFP.
Mr Law has previously distanced himself from the more radical “localist” movement, which includes activists who are stridently pro-independence and have previously advocated violence.
Young campaigners have been galvanised by a number of incidents which have pointed to increased Beijing interference.
Political analyst Willy Lam said voters had chosen the new guard to “send a strong message to Beijing”.
Beijing and Hong Kong authorities have repeatedly railed against the
concept of independence as unconstitutional. The loudest pro-independence voices were banned by the government from standing in the vote, a move which triggered widespread anger.
However, some localists who were allowed to run called for independence on the campaign trail.
If the democrats were to lose four seats, they would forfeit the one-third voting bloc they need to veto bills, stacking the already skewed legislature even more in favour of Beijing.
Results so far show they are likely to hold on to that veto power, although some veteran democrat campaigners were voted out to make way for the new generation.
However, the overall make-up of the LegCo remains weighted toward Beijing under a system that makes it almost impossible for the democracy camp to take a majority.
Thirty of the council’s 70 seats are elected by special interest groups representing a range of businesses and social sectors. Those seats go predominantly to pro-Beijing candidates.
Of 3.7 million voters, 58 percent came out to vote, compared with 53pc in 2012. –
Civic Passion’s Cheng Chung-tai (centre-l election, at the central counting station
left) is congratulated by a supporter following his win in the Legislative Council in Hong Kong yesterday.