Young radicals enter Hong Kong's Legco

Mr Nathan Law, the election's youngest candidate at 23, celebrating yesterday with supporters after he won a seat in the Legislative Council. Sunday's polls were the first major election after 2014's Occupy protests, which many young localist candida
Mr Nathan Law, the election's youngest candidate at 23, celebrating yesterday with supporters after he won a seat in the Legislative Council. Sunday's polls were the first major election after 2014's Occupy protests, which many young localist candidates were part of.PHOTO: REUTERS

Localists surprise observers by winning 7 seats, in outcome that could see tension with Beijing rise

Hong Kongers have sent several young, radical politicians into the city's legislature in a landmark election that could lead to increased tensions between the city and the Beijing government.

Sunday's Legislative Council (Legco) Election saw a new wave of localist candidates winning seven seats, beyond the expectations of analysts.

The number of seats won by localist candidates, in results released yesterday, is a stern rebuke of Chinese President Xi Jinping's policies and Chief Executive Leung Chun Ying's administration in trying to squeeze Hong Kong's democracy and restrict freedom, said political analyst Willy Lam.

The record turnout of 2.2 million people, or 58 per cent of the 3.7 million eligible voters, who cast their ballots showed Hong Kongers were more worried about their future.

Some polling stations had to stay open till the wee hours of Monday morning, as lines were still forming when polling was supposed to close at 10.30pm.

The results also showed Hong Kongers willing to vote a new generation of politicians into the Legco, including those who want the city to break away from the mainland.

 

The Beijing government yesterday said it opposed efforts by certain candidates and organisations in the Hong Kong polls to promote independence, the Xinhua news agency reported, citing remarks from a representative of the Hong Kong and Macau Affairs Office.

The outgoing British Consul-General Caroline Wilson told the Hong Kong Free Press news site last week that Britain does not support independence for Hong Kong. "It doesn't make any sense," she said.

To the surprise of many, the youngest candidate Nathan Law, 23, received 13.5 per cent, or 50,818, of votes, second to pro-Beijing incumbent Regina Ip, who got 60,760 of the total 376,675 votes for the six-seat Hong Kong Island constituency which had 15 candidates.

Dark horse candidate Eddie Chu, 38, an independent, garnered the highest number of votes of all the candidates. More than 84,000 Hong Kongers in New Territories West voted for the social activist known for his campaigns to preserve Hong Kong's heritage.

A number of the localist candidates, like Mr Law, were relatively unknown until after the Occupy protests in 2014 that demanded greater autonomy and democracy.

Sunday's polls were the first major election after the protests, in which many of the young localist candidates had participated.

The rise of the localists - a new term referring to those who want to protect Hong Kong's autonomy and its culture and identity - saw the pro-Beijing camp losing three seats.

The pro-Beijing camp was hoping to win at least 47 seats in the 70- seat Council to secure a two-third majority to break the one-third veto-wielding bloc held by the pan-democrats. But it won only 40.

On the other hand, the pan-democrats, which secured 23 seats, was one seat short of the one-third they need to retain veto power. They would have to cooperate with the localists to have this power.

Mr Law of Demosisto party feels there is plenty of room for both camps to work together because of the similarities in their policies.

"But first, we should stop flaming and stop talking bad about each other and try to find a way to work together," he told The Straits Times.

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 06, 2016, with the headline 'Young radicals enter HK's Legco'. Print Edition | Subscribe