Tue, Mar 13, 2018 - Page 1 News List

Hong Kong’s pro-democracy camp loses ground


Pro-democracy lawmaker-elect Au Nok-hin, second right, is congratulated early yesterday morning by Dutchman Paul Zimmerman, center, who lost his race, and Demosisto members Agnes Chow, left, and Nathan Law, right, after winning a Legislative Council by-election in Hong Kong.

Photo: EPA-EFE

Hong Kong pro-democracy candidates won back only two of four seats in a crucial by-election in the territory, final results showed yesterday.

The opposition was not able to recapture all its territory, losing some to formidably resourced pro-Beijing rivals and falling short of the number needed to veto most bills in the Legislative Council.

The four seats were among six left empty when a group of lawmakers were expelled following a 2016 controversy over their oaths, which they used to defy China.

Little-known activist and neighborhood councilor Au Nok-hin (區諾軒) won a key battleground after being enlisted at the last minute.

He stepped in after election officials rejected the pro-democracy camp’s marquee candidate, 21-year-old Agnes Chow (周庭), over her party’s platform advocating “self-determination” for the former British colony, which she slammed as “political screening.”

The disqualifications of lawmakers and candidates have raised fears among activists and international groups that Hong Kong’s Beijing-backed government is taking an increasingly hard line on dissent.

“I won’t say the result today is a victory,” Au 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 over these years.”

He had earlier called the vote a referendum on democracy in Hong Kong,

Hong Kong’s pro-democracy camp now holds 26 seats in the 70-seat Legislative Council. Two remaining empty seats are to be decided later because they are the subject of ongoing legal action.

About 43 percent of 2.1 million eligible voters cast ballots for three geographical seats, lower than the 58.3 percent turnout in 2016’s territory-wide vote.

“It is significant that we didn’t mobilize the people to vote. This is a serious challenge for 2020,” when the next round of elections is scheduled, retired City University of Hong Kong professor of political science Joseph Cheng (鄭宇碩) said, adding that residents “seem to be apathetic.”

Edward Yiu (姚松炎), the only one of the disqualified lawmakers to compete again, narrowly lost to a pro-Beijing rival after a recount.

A third pro-democracy candidate, Gary Fan (范國威), won his constituency.

In a fourth race, architects and surveyors elected a pro-Beijing candidate over Dutch native Paul Zimmerman.

About half of the council’s seats are chosen by mainly pro-Beijing business and trade groups.

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