Pro-independence camp wins seats in HK poll
A NEW generation of young Hong Kong politicians advocating a break from Beijing became lawmakers for the first time yesterday in a result likely to rattle China.
It was the biggest poll since mass pro-democracy rallies in 2014 failed to win concessions on political reform, leading to the emergence of a slew of new parties demanding more autonomy from Beijing.
Those parties now have a foothold in the legislature with five young candidates backing independence or self-determination taking seats.
A record 2.2 million people voted in the city-wide election for members of the Legislative Council (LegCo), Hong Kong's lawmaking body.
It was the highest turnout since Hong Kong was returned to China by Britain in 1997 under an agreement guaranteeing its freedoms for 50 years.
At the forefront of the new guard in LegCo is Nathan Law, 23, leader of the 2014 Umbrella Movement rallies, who took more than 50,000 votes to become the council's youngest member.
He and his new party Demosisto are calling for a referendum on independence, emphasising Hong Kongers' right to choose whether they want to split from China.
With the pro-democracy camp divided between those who back the idea of possible independence and those who are more wary of the once taboo notion, Mr Law said he would seek unity.
Young campaigners have been galvanised by a number of incidents which have pointed to increased Beijing interference.
Political analyst Willy Lam said voters had backed the activists to "send a strong message to Beijing".
Political commentator Joseph Cheng expects Beijing to adopt a "very hawkish position" and that the authorities could seek to disqualify any legislator advocating a split from China.
However, the overall make-up of the LegCo remains weighted towards Beijing under a system that makes it almost impossible for the democracy camp to take a majority.