21 June, Thursday

Hong Kong elections results: blow for pro-democracy movement with lost seats


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Hong Kong pro-democracy campaigners have suffered a blow after weekend elections saw them lose critical influence in the city’s government.
Democracy candidates failed to recapture two out of four seats in crucial by elections on Sunday in the former British colony, with the loss depriving the camp of their power to block most bills in the city’s 70 seat parliament.
All four seats were previously held by members of pro-democracy parties who were ejected after controversy surrounding their oaths of office in 2016. Two more banned lawmakers are still contesting their disqualification in court.
China has taken an increasingly hard line against dissent in Hong Kong in recent years and the election was widely seen as a referendum on the creeping influence of Beijing.
Over the past few years Chinese security agents have abducted Hong Kong booksellers, Beijing has evoked a power to rewrite Hong Kong laws and the government has moved to criminalise some forms of protest that involved “disrespecting” the national anthem. Hong Kong’s Beijing-appointed government has also sought to jail dozens of protesters, including several prominent politicians.
“I won’t say the result today is a victory,” Au Nok-hin, who won a seat for the democrats on Hong Kong island, said after his results were announced. “I would say it’s only a hollow victory, because we’ve paid a rather high price for it. The democracy camp has faced huge suppressions due to the political turmoil in these years.”
Au ran only after prominent student activist Agnes Chow was banned from standing for election over her party’s political views.
The Hong Kong vote was held on the same day China’s rubber stamp parliament abolished term limits on president Xi Jinping, paving the way for him to stay in power for years to come. Joshua Wong, a well known protest leader, urged voters to support a democratic candidate in order to “stand firm against Emperor Xi”.
Hong Kong is ruled by China under an arrangement known as “one country, two systems” and the city maintains separate courts, schools and many of the freedoms in place before the UK handed it back in 1997. While Beijing has sought to exert greater influence over Hong Kong’s affairs, the city remains far freer than mainland China, where open elections are nonexistent.
Only one lawmaker who lost a seat stood for reelection, but Edward Yiu was defeated by his pro-Beijing rival by about 2,400 votes after Yiu requested an early morning recount. Others were banned from running over criminal convictions related to protests.
“We did not underestimate the enemy. We have put in a full effort. It’s just that I did not have the experience and I had made inadequate arrangements,” Yiu told news website Hong Kong Free Press after the loss.
The overall turnout for the three popularly elected seats was 43%, a sharp drop from the 58% of registered voters who came out for the full legislative elections in late 2016.
Pro-democracy parties now hold 26 seats in the 70 member legislature, which is only partially democratic. About half the lawmakers are returned by business and trade groups that are overwhelmingly pro-Beijing.

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