HONG KONG • Young Hong Kong pro-democracy politicians vowed yesterday they would not be cowed by China's new security law and would press ahead with plans to win a majority in the city's legislature, or Legislative Council (Legco).
Over 600,000 people turned out at the weekend to choose candidates for upcoming legislative elections despite warnings from government officials that the exercise itself could breach Beijing's sweeping new law.
The unofficial primary vote was an attempt by a coalition of democracy groups to avoid a potentially damaging voter split during September's polls for the city's partially elected legislature.
Results released yesterday showed sixteen young firebrand politicians - who have dubbed themselves the "resistance camp" and have long been critical of Beijing - had done especially well.
Older, more traditional candidates made up a smaller selection of the winners.
The young activists include 23-year-old former student protest leader Joshua Wong, as well as Mr Jimmy Sham, who helped organise last year's pro-democracy rallies.
"The results of the primary election showed that the resistance faction has become mainstream," Mr Lester Shum, another former student leader, told reporters at a press conference.
"Now our most important task is to unite and meet Beijing's puppet regime in Hong Kong head on," he added.
After the primary, Beijing's Liaison Office in Hong Kong accused democracy activists of trying to launch a revolution.
It also said that any candidates campaigning to paralyse the legislature by winning a majority broke an anti-subversion clause of the new law.
The official line raises the prospect that some candidates might be prosecuted or barred from standing in the election.
But activists insisted they had the right to block government legislation if their camp won a majority.
"If we are elected a legislator, casting a negative vote is part of our lawful right," said Mr Fergus Leung, one of the activists.
Yesterday, former lawmaker Au Nok Hin said he was withdrawing from the group, which organised the primary, because of Beijing's threat of prosecution.
"Withdrawal is the only choice that I can protect myself and others," he wrote in a Facebook statement.
Hong Kong's legislature is weighted to favour pro-Beijing parties, with only half the 70 seats directly elected.