Young anti-China activists win Hong Kong elections

A new wave of young Hong Kong activists seeking to change the way the southern Chinese city is governed by Beijing have emerged as the big winners of legislative elections.

Radical activist candidates celebrate after their legislative council election victory in Hong Kong. Picture: AP

Record turnout in Sunday’s vote helped sweep the newcomers into office, most notably Nathan Law, a 23-year-old former student leader of massive pro-democracy protests that rocked Hong Kong in 2014.

He garnered the second-highest number of votes in his six-seat Hong Kong Island constituency.

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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, of Youngspiration, which was formed during the 2014 protests and proposes a similar plan as Demosisto, secured a seat in the Legislative Council.

The group’s other candidate, 30-year-old Sixtus Leung, also appeared headed for a win, according to incomplete results for his constituency.

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.

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 per cent of registered voters, cast votes for candidates in the city’s legislative council, which represents the highest turnout since the city’s 1997 handover from Britain.