Pro-independence candidates have won several seats in Hong Kong’s local elections after a record poll turnout on Sunday. The win could strain the city’s ties with mainland China.
Hong Kong’s pro-independence lawmakers looked set to retain one-third of the seats in the city’s legislative assembly, the initial count revealed. According to the Electoral Affairs Commission, around 58 percent of the city’s eligible citizens had voted, up from 53 percent in 2012. The number was also the highest for any election since 1997.
The complete results were expected later on Monday.
At least five democrats, including Nathan Law (pictured above, center), one of the candidates from the “Umbrella protests” of 2014, won seats in the Legislative Council or LegCo, Hong Kong’s lawmaking body.
“I’m quite shocked,” Law said, speaking to news agencies. “We inherit some spirit from the movement, and I hope that can continue in the future… We still have to unite in order to have strong power to fight against the Chinese Communist Party,” the 23-year-old added.
Yau Wai-Ching of the pro-independence party Youngspiration won a seat. Its other candidate, Baggio Leung, also seemed to be close to victory. However, some of the loudest pro-independence candidates were banned from participating in the polls.
Several senior democrats faced defeat, indicating that self-determination for Hong Kong and a confrontational stance against China were preferred among voters. “It’s a new era,” Lee Cheuk-yan, a democratic candidate who lost the polls, said.
“People want change, change meaning they want new faces…but the price is a further fragmentation [of the democracy camp]. Ideologically, they’re talking about independence, and they want to assert themselves,” he told reporters.
Sunday’s polls were the first after “Umbrella” protests shook the city in 2014, criticizing Beijing’s increased interference and its stifling of dissent and liberties.
A former British colony, Hong Kong was returned to China in 1997 under a “one country, two systems” deal, which guaranteed separate freedoms and laws for the finance hub. Beijing still retains ultimate control.
mg/jil (Reuters, AFP)