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Hong Kong pro-democracy camp suffers election setback

13 March 2018

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.

Many in Hong Kong are anxious that the region's semi-autonomous status is being eroded by China.

The result of's poll means that pro-democracy lawmakers in the former British colony will no longer wield any veto power over motions and amendments, while new rules have limited their use of filibustering in the LegCo chamber, paving the way for shelved legislation on sedition and subversion to be tabled by the government at Beijing's behest. "It is not that they won back two of the four seats, it is that they lost two seats previously held by them. The democracy camp has faced huge suppressions due to the political turmoil over these years".

The biggest loser was localist Edward Yiu Chung-yim, one of the opposition camp's star candidates, who secured about 48.8 per cent of votes but lost in the Kowloon West constituency to pro-establishment rival Vincent Cheng Wing-shun of the Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong (DAB).

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The vote pits pro-Beijing loyalists against opposition candidates competing for four seats in the city's semi-democratic legislature.

The other lost seat in the by-election was the defeat of Paul Zimmerman to pro-Beijing candidate Tony Tse in the Architectural, Surveying, Planning and Landscape functional constituency, by a mere 584 votes.

Over the past two decades, however, tensions have simmered and occasionally boiled over with activists pushing in vain for full democracy amidst opposition from Beijing. During a visit to the city last July, Xi warned that Beijing would not tolerate any challenge to its authority.

Political observers also noted that pro-establishment lawmakers could take advantage of their election advances to bulldoze controversial policies or laws through Legco.

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A turnout of 43 percent, far less than the 58 percent for full legislative council polls two years ago, suggested votes could have become worn out with the democrats' struggle.

The democrats' failure to regain veto power over most bills could effectively render the Hong Kong legislature a rubber-stamp parliament not unlike Beijing's National People's Congress.

Meanwhile, a Hong Kong Island voter was expected to mount a judicial review on Tuesday challenging the validity of Au Nok-hin's nomination as a candidate in the by-election. Each term of office of the legislative council is four years, except for the first term when it was set to be two years.

Law and Wong initially backed fellow Demosisto Party member Agnes Chow in the election but switched to support Au Nok-hin after Chow was barred from standing by Hong Kong's Electoral Affairs Commission.

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Hong Kong pro-democracy camp suffers election setback