Hong Kong pro-democracy candidates retain veto in key vote

Youngspiration group candidates (from left) Yau Wai-ching, Kenny Wong and Henry Wong celebrate after Yau won a seat on the Legislative Council. Photo / AP
Youngspiration group candidates (from left) Yau Wai-ching, Kenny Wong and Henry Wong celebrate after Yau won a seat on the Legislative Council. Photo / AP

Hong Kong pro-democracy candidates won enough seats in a pivotal legislative election to retain veto power over the southern Chinese government's proposals, setting the stage for a new round of political confrontations with Beijing, official results showed Monday.

The big winners included a group of young candidates who took part in massive 2014 pro-democracy street protests and are now seeking to change the way the city is governed by Beijing.

Pro-democracy candidates needed to secure at least 24 of 70 seats in the Legislative Council in order to block government attempts to enact unpopular or controversial legislation, such as a Beijing-backed revamp of how the city's top leader is chosen that sparked the 2014 protests.

Official results for most constituencies showed that they won at least 27 seats. Full final results are still to be announced.

Record turnout in Sunday's vote helped sweep the newcomers into office, most notably Nathan Law, a 23-year-old former student protest leader, who garnered the second-highest number of votes in his six-seat Hong Kong Island constituency.

Law's party, Demosisto, founded earlier this year with teen protest leader Joshua Wong, advocates a referendum on "self-determination" on the future status of Hong Kong, which is in the middle of a 50-year transition period to Chinese rule.

"It shows how Hong Kong people want to change," Law told reporters when asked about his victory. "People are voting for a new way and new future of our democratic movement."

In another surprising result, official results showed that Yau Wai-Ching, 25, and Sixtus "Baggio" Leung, 30, of Youngspiration, which was formed during the 2014 protests and proposes a similar plan as Demosisto, secured seats in the Legislative Council.

The newcomers pulled off their startling victories by riding a rising tide of anti-China sentiment as they challenged formidably resourced pro-Beijing rivals.

They were part of a broader wave of radical activists who campaigned for Hong Kong's complete autonomy or even independence from China, highlighting fears that Beijing is eroding the city's high autonomy, as well as frustration over the failure of the 2014 protests to win genuine elections for Hong Kong's top leader.

Electoral officers count ballots at the central ballot counting station for the legislative council elections in Hong Kong. Photo / AP
Electoral officers count ballots at the central ballot counting station for the legislative council elections in Hong Kong. Photo / AP

That represents a break with the established mainstream "pan-democrat" parties, who have demanded voters be able to elect more lawmakers as well as the city's top leader, or chief executive " currently chosen by a panel of pro-Beijing elites " but never challenged the idea that Hong Kong is part of China.

About 2.2 million people, or 58 percent of registered voters, cast ballots for the Legislative Council, the highest turnout since the city's 1997 handover from Britain.

Another rookie, 38-year-old land reform campaigner Eddie Chu, was the election's biggest surprise, winning 84,121 votes, the highest number of votes received by any of the more than 200 candidates competing for 35 seats in geographic constituencies.

"I hope to renew the democratic movement of Hong Kong," Chu said. He too wants to focus on promoting a self-determination movement. "That is my political goal in Hong Kong."

Results for five more "super seats" chosen by voters citywide were still being counted.

Another 30 seats are taken by members representing business and trade groups such as accounting, finance, medicine and fisheries, most of which support Beijing because their members have close ties to China's Communist elite on the mainland.

- AP

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