H.K. pro-democracy movement loses ground

The Associated Press

Hong Kong pro-democracy by-election candidate Au Nok-hin, right, celebrates next to his competitor pro-Beijing candidate Judy Chan, left, after winning a seat in Hong Kong on Monday.

The Associated Press HONG KONG (AP) — Hong Kong pro-democracy candidates won back only two of four seats in a crucial by-election in the semiautonomous Chinese region, final results showed Monday.

The results mean the opposition wasn’t able to recapture all its territory, losing some to formidably resourced pro-Beijing rivals in the city’s semi-democratic legislature.

The four seats were among six left empty when a group of lawmakers were expelled following a 2016 controversy over their oaths, which they used to defy China.

Little-known activist Au Nok-hin won a key battleground. He was enlisted at the last minute after officials rejected the pro-democracy camp’s marquee candidate, 21-year-old Agnes Chow, for her party’s political platform.

The disqualifications of lawmakers and candidates have raised fears among activists and international groups that Hong Kong’s Beijing-backed government is taking an increasingly hard line on dissent.

“I won’t say the result today is a victory,” Au said after his results were announced. “I would say it’s only a hollow victory, because we’ve paid a rather high price for it. The democracy camp has faced huge suppressions due to the political turmoil in these years.”

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.

Under the “one country, two systems” framework, Beijing promised to let Hong Kong maintain wide autonomy and civil liberties following its 1997 handover from Britain but fears are rising that China’s communist leaders are backtracking.

About 43 percent of 2.1 million eligible voters cast ballots for three Legislative Council seats.

Edward Yiu, who was the only one of the disqualified lawmakers to compete again, narrowly lost to a pro-Beijing rival after a nail-biting recount. A third pro-democracy candidate, Gary Fan, won his constituency.

In a fourth race, architects and surveyors elected a pro-Beijing candidate over Dutch native Paul Zimmerman — business and trade groups account for about half the council’s 70 seats.Speech

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