The Borneo Post (Sabah)
Scuffles in Hong Kong at key vote for democrats
HONG KONG: Hong Kong’s best-known young activists were heckled by Chinese nationalists in tense scenes Sunday as the city’s pro-democracy camp tries to claw back lost seats in controversial by-elections.
Yesterday’s vote once more exposed the city’s deep political divide and comes as China takes an increasingly tough line against any challenges to its sovereignty.
High-profile candidate Agnes Chow was barred from standing because her party promotes self-determination for the semiautonomous city.
Soon after polls opened, several men and a woman heckled Chow as well as leading pro-democracy activists Joshua Wong and Nathan Law near a polling station where they were supporting pro-democracy candidate Au Nok-hin, according to an AFP reporter at the scene.
One of the men barged into Wong, who led mass demonstrations in 2014 calling for greater democratic freedoms.
“Traitors and running dogs!” a man repeatedly yelled while others hurled obscenities.
Wong told reporters that threats to freedoms in the city ‘prove that it’s more necessary for us to vote’.
Beijing has been incensed at the emergence of activists advocating independence and views calls for self-determination as part of a dangerous splittist push.
The by-election was triggered after Beijing forced the disqualification of six rebel lawmakers who had swept to victory in citywide elections in 2016.
Some were former protest leaders, others openly advocated independence.
All were ousted from their posts for inserting protests into their oaths of office.
Four of the six vacant seats are being contested yesterday.
“The election is not just about selecting me as a candidate, it is also about voting for justice,” said Au, who stepped in to contest the Hong Kong Island seat after Agnes Chow was disallowed.
Democracy campaigners were deeply angered by the ban on Chow which they said was political screening.
The seat was originally held by Law, also a 2014 protest leader, who was among the six thrown out of office. But proestablishment politician Judy Chan, standing against Au, cast the opposition as provoking ‘violence and resistance’.
“The by-election is a chance for the silent majority, who are tired of a politicised Hong Kong, who detest those who humiliate the country, to come out and tell those politicians that Hong Kong has no room for them,” Chan told AFP.
Some voters on Sunday supportive of the pro-Beijing establishment hoped a weighted legislature with limited opposition could clear the ways for bills they favour.
“Many infrastructure projects and bills concerning people’s livelihoods need to be put forward,” said a retired policeman who provided his surname as Kwan.
“China is the big brother now,” Kwan added, calling independence a ‘dead end’ for Hong Kong.
But others were worried about the rule of law in the city after the disqualification of lawmakers.
“I want my children and grandchildren to live in a place with a fair system,” a banker who gave his surname as Hong, 56, told AFP. — AFP