Young activists take on China in key HK HONG KONG: Young Hong Kong independence activists calling for a complete break from China stood for the first time on Sunday in city-wide legislative elections, the biggest polls since mass pro-democracy protests in 2014.
They were fighting for seats in the Legislative Council (LegCo) as concerns grow that Beijing is tightening its grip on the semi-autonomous city.
Campaigners made a last-ditch push for votes in the final hours and by early evening the turnout stood at nearly 40 per cent, or 1.5 million.
But victories for the young activists could split the vote for the pro-democracy camp — and end up playing into the hands of pro-Beijing parties.
Most established pro-democracy politicians do not support the notion of independence and may lose seats to voters who now favour more radical new groups.
If the democrats lose just four seats overall, they will forfeit the one-third voting bloc they need to veto bills, stacking the already skewed legislature even more in favour of Beijing.
Fears that Hong Kong’s freedoms are disappearing were fanned after five city booksellers known for salacious titles about Beijing politicians disappeared, resurfacing in detention on the mainland. That fuelled the fire of the “localist” movement, which is seeking distance from China after the failure of the 2014 rallies to win political reform.
Now some young campaigners are demanding outright independence, others the chance for Hong Kong to determine its own future in a referendum. The more strident independence activists — slammed by Beijing and Hong Kong authorities as acting illegally — were banned by the government from running in Sunday’s election, a move which sparked anger.
Polls have shown that some of the handful of pro-independence candidates may win seats. Political analyst Joseph Cheng says he expects new faces in the legislature.
“This election is very much characterised by an inter-generational change of politicians and political leaders,” he said.