Young radicals gain foothold in Hong Kong poll and is likely to rile China

4q97In 2014, tens of thousands of Hong Kong residents took to the streets in a defiant challenge to China. They called for full democracy, universal suffrage and the protection of their way of life.

But few spoke of independence — until now.

Two years after the “Umbrella Revolution” swept Hong Kong, with rising anger about Beijing’s influence in the city, what once was a fringe position has become a nascent political force.

Several pro-independence candidates won seats in Hong Kong’s legislative election which saw a record turnout in the Chinese-controlled city on Sunday, results likely to further strain ties with Communist Party rulers in Beijing.

In the first election since the 2014 protests, a record number of Hong Kong voters chose several candidates who either support the idea of independence from China, or have called for far greater autonomy.

Student leader Joshua Wong (R) greets candidate Nathan Law (2nd R) as supporters share their joy after Law won in the Legislative Council election in Hong Kong.
Student leader Joshua Wong (R) greets candidate Nathan Law (2nd R) as supporters share their joy after Law won in the Legislative Council election in Hong Kong.

According to early results, the new faces include Sixtus Leung, a 30-year-old who has said he supports independence, and Nathan Law, a 23-year-old student leader who helped lead the 2014 protests and is calling for a referendum on “self-determination.”

The results will not immediately change Hong Kong’s governance. Only half of the seats of the city’s 70-member legislative council are directly elected through universal suffrage; half are “functional constituencies” that give corporations, associations and chambers of commerce actual votes.

hong-kong-mapYet the strong showing by young, pro-independence and pro-democracy candidates means that those critical of Beijing’s influence will maintain the ability to veto policies proposed by the pro-China camp.

And it sends a clear message to Beijing: The battleground may have shifted, but the fight for Hong Kong is on.

 

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