Published: Mon, March 12, 2018
Finance | By Claude Patterson

HK pro-democracy movement loses ground

HK pro-democracy movement loses ground

As for the other seat that was up for grabs on Sunday, the architectural, surveying, planning and landscape functional constituency, pro-Beijing candidate Tse Wai-chuen, who had in the past represented the sector in Legco, was declared the victor, receiving 2,929 votes and beating the pan-democrat backed Zimmerman, who secured 2,345 ballots.

After the count ended on Monday morning the democracy camp had only managed to take back two of the four seats.

The result also reflected the difficulty in the democratic camp, which covered a wide spectrum, from pro-independence activists to more centrist politicians.

Four of the six vacant seats were contested Sunday.

"This election is not just a normal election; it is a battle between the pro-Beijing camp and the pro-democracy camp", Chow said, adding that it was an important choice for the people of Hong Kong between "rule of law or rule by the Communist Party".

The voter turnout was 43 per cent, far lower than 58 per cent at the last full legislative council elections in 2016.

However, they will continue to be outgunned on other bills that require a lower threshold as they failed to regain the veto power they lost due to the disqualifications.

Hong Kong by-elections were held on March 11, with pro-democracy candidates unable to regain all of their lost seats after the disqualification of pro-democracy legislators previous year, following their refusal to take an oath of loyalty to authorities in Beijing.

Au had called the vote a referendum on democracy in Hong Kong, but the prospect of democratic development looks increasingly distant after China's rubber-stamp parliament voted Sunday to abolish presidential term limits, allowing President Xi Jinping to stay in power indefinitely.

Little-known activist Au-Nok-hin, a neighborhood councilor, won after being enlisted to replace Chow to run against pro-Beijing rival Judy Chan in the vote's main battleground.

Beijing has been incensed at the emergence of activists advocating independence and views calls for self-determination as part of a risky splittist push.

"If that's the case, they lost the referendum since anything short of retaining all four of their seats is a loss", says Ngok Ma, an associate professor of government and public administration at the Chinese University of Hong Kong.

The six lawmakers barred from office included former protest leaders and independence activists.

All were removed from their posts for inserting protests into their oaths of office after an intervention by Beijing. About half of the council's seats are chosen by mainly pro-Beijing business and trade groups.

Pro-democracy candidates and pro-Beijing candidates have clashed over the region's economic policies as well as its relations with the mainland, which has stepped up its bid to control Hong Kong.

The rest are selected by traditionally pro-establishment interest groups. The two were among a wave of young activists who emerged from the massive but inconclusive 2014 "Umbrella Movement" demonstrations against Beijing's plans to restrict elections for Hong Kong's top leader.

Some leading activists have been jailed on protest-related charges and democracy campaigners fear the space for open political debate is seriously under threat.

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