A BRAND new generation of political leaders seeking greater independence from Beijing have emerged victors in the just-concluded Hong Kong legislative council elections, a result likely to impact the region’s ties with Communist Party leaders in China.
Reports streaming in early Monday indicate that at initial count, at least four of the handful of new generation pro-independence candidates campaigning for seats have emerged victorious.
The full result of the polls is expected to only come in later today but according to a Reuters report, it appears likely that the pro-democracy opposition will retain its crucial one-third veto bloc in the 70-seat council.
A record 2.2 million, or 58 percent, of voters cast their ballots yesterday in the city-wide election, said to be Hong Kong’s biggest and most historic since its handover from Britain in 1997 and since the series of mass pro-democracy rallies in 2014. The large turnout caused delays in the vote tallying process in some areas, the Associated Press reported.
Among the four to win are Nathan Law, the 23-year-old leader of the “Umbrella movement” rallies who reportedly polled enough votes to come in second behind a pro-Beijing candidate, thus guaranteeing himself a seat in the council.
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“I think Hong Kongers really wanted change. Young people have a sense of urgency when it comes to the future,” he was quoted saying in an AFP report.
Law also acknowledged the split in the pro-democracy camp, with some backing the idea of independence and others seeing this as too drastic a move. But the youth leader said he will seek to get both factions to close ranks.
“We have to be united to fight against the (Chinese) Communist Party,” he told the news wire. Law leads Demosisto, a party newly-formed with fellow protest leader Joshua Wong. Both Law and Wong were last month sentenced to serve 120 and 80 hours of community service respectively as punishment for leading the 2014 protests.
Meanwhile, a South China Morning Post report said four veteran democrats are preparing to exit the council to make way for the younger batch of democrats fighting for a more confrontational stance with Beijing.
Among them are Wong Yuk-man of the Proletariat Political Institute, who was felled by Youngspiration’s Yau Wai-ching; Labour Party’s Lee Cheuk-yan, who was beaten by Civic Passion’s Cheng Chung-tai; and Lee’s colleague Cyd Ho Sau-lan, who lost in Hong Kong Island to Law.
Lee when conceding defeat said that a series of factors had contributed to his loss but of these, the most pivotal was the demand for change.
“Most importantly, it is because all of society wants to see change and new faces,” he was quoted saying in SCMP’s report.
Lee, who is stepping down after nearly two decades in office, also labelled the results the start of a “new era” in Hong Kong’s political landscape.
“People want change, change meaning that 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 was quoted saying in a Straits Times report by AFP.
Britain handed back Hong Kong to China in 1997 under a “one country, two systems” agreement meant to allow the region to maintain its freedoms and stay semi-autonomous until the deal’s expiration in 50 years.