Anti-China activists gain foothold in Hong Kong poll

Anti-China activists gain foothold in Hong Kong poll

Anti-China activists gain foothold in Hong Kong poll

Nathan Law (C) celebrates after winning a seat in the Legislative Council election, in Hong Kong, China September 5, 2016. REUTERS photo

Several pro-independence candidates won seats in Hong Kong’s legislative election which saw a record turnout of 2.2 million voters in the Chinese-controlled city on Sept.4, a result likely to further strain ties with Communist Party rulers in Beijing. 

Hong Kong’s pro-democracy opposition also kept its crucial one-third veto bloc in the 70-seat Legislative Council over major legislation and public funding that has helped check China’s influence. 

The vote, which ushered in a new crop of legislators including a 23-year-old former protest leader who vowed to “fight” the Chinese Communist Party, underscores growing frustration with how Beijing has handled its “special administrative region” and marks a significant turning point. 

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. 

Despite the disqualification of six pro-democracy election candidates from the election in July on the grounds that they backed independence, at least five “localists” and younger democratic newcomers won seats, including one of the leaders from the mass democracy protests of 2014, Nathan Law. 

Localists put the interests of Hong Kong before those of Beijing. 

“I’m quite shocked,” said Law, 23. “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 stronger power to fight the Chinese Communist Party.” 

Sunday’s vote was the first major election since the student-led “Umbrella Revolution” protests of 2014 that blocked roads for 79 days in which Beijing gave no ground. 

Since then, many disaffected youngsters have decried what they see as increasing Beijing interference stifling dissent and civil liberties, leading to a radicalization of the political scene and occasional violent protests. 

China’s government said it opposed efforts by certain candidates and organizations in Hong Kong elections to promote independence, the state-owned Xinhua news agency reported. 

The remarks were made by a representative of the Department of Hong Kong, Macao and Taiwan Affairs, the agency added.