Yesterday, record numbers of voters turned out to polling stations around Hong Kong for the first Legislative Council (LegCo) elections since the 2014 Occupy protests. The final results are in and the city’s new political energy has given the opposition parties a couple of extra seats and elected a few members of a new generation of Hong Kong pro-democracy activists.
This LegCo election was considered to be the most important one in Hong Kong’s history since the city was handed back over to China. Many believe that the principle of “one country, two systems” is quickly being eroded away by Beijing and pro-democracy — not to mention pro-independence — sentiment has been spreading, especially among the young people. Large numbers of them turned out to vote on who will be on the city’s 70-seat legislative council. Polling stations around the city stayed open late and the overall voter turnout was a record 58%, SCMP reports.
Ultimately, it turned out to be a victory for Hong Kong’s opposition parties. HKFP reports that they grabbed 19 out of the 35 seats that were up grabs — with localist candidates picking up 3 of those seats. That gives them enough legislators to maintain their one-third veto power, allowing them to block major legislation and public funding.
Of course, the LegCo remains controlled by pro-Beijing lawmakers. Only 35 out of the 70 Legislative Council seats are directly elected by the city’s 3.8 million registered voters. The other 30 seats are so-called “functional constitutes” who represent various professions and trades, and mostly lean toward Beijing.
But these elections have added a host of new faces as veteran lawmakers from both camps have been cast aside. At least six of the newly elected lawmakers are young people who support self-determination. Increasingly popular localist groups like Civic Passion and Youngspiration also claimed seats.
The most familiar new face is that of 23-year-old Nathan Law Kwun-chung, one of the student leaders of the 2014 Occupy protests and a member of the Demosisto party, which has campaigned for Hong Kong’s right to self-determination.
“I think Hongkongers really wanted change. Young people have a sense of urgency when it comes to the future,” Law told the AFP.
Another new face is that of outspoken social activist Eddie Chu Hoi-dick, who won an unexpected 84,000 votes (more than anyone else) in a landslide victory to take a LegCo seat, despite the fact that he had no party backing him up.
“The result shows that Hong Kong people believe we need a paradigm shift in the democratic movement,” Chu said. “We should no longer follow strictly to the Basic Law.”
In with the new and out with the old. Veteran pan-democrats also lost their seats and many believe that this new LegCo will only increase political tensions and fractures in the city, as well as in the pro-democracy camp with localists becoming more popular than ever before. It remains to be seen how localists will cooperate with pan-democrats, much less pro-Beijing lawmakers and HK Chief Executive CY Leung, whose term runs out early next year. Many believe that the LegCo election results will go a long way to deciding whether CY Leung will return for another term.
Prior to the election, it was announced that all LegCo candidates would have to submit a nomination form to run, part of that was a pledge affirming that Hong Kong is a part of China. Some pro-independence candidates were disqualified from running for failing to sign the pledge. In response, protesters held the largest pro-independence rally in the city’s history.