HONG KONG (Reuters) - Hong Kong's democratic opposition failed to win back a crucial legislative council seat in an election on Sunday that would have restored some of its veto power at a time when the China-ruled city's freedoms are under strain.
While the Democrats have enjoyed strong public backing in the past from a public aggrieved by China's creeping control of the Asian financial hub, they've struggled against a far larger and better funded pro-Beijing camp and unprecedented moves by authorities to curb electoral freedoms.
The democratic camp's main candidate, Lee Cheuk-yan, lost by around 13,000 votes to Rebecca Chan Hoi-yan of the pro-Beijing Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong (DAB). Another democrat, Frederick Fung, who ran as an independent after a row with the democratic camp, split the vote to the benefit of the DAB.
With this loss, Hong Kong's 70-seat legislature becomes further dominated by pro-Beijing allies, with the democrats holding less than a third of the seats.
Sunday's by-election, and that in March, were triggered when six pro-democracy lawmakers were ousted over invalid oaths of office. Critics said the move was politically motivated, raising fresh questions over Hong Kong's reputation as a relative haven for freedoms not allowed anywhere in mainland China.
The poll comes at a time of increasing international concern towards a perceived deterioration in Hong Kong civil liberties.
(Reporting by James Pomfret; Editing by Catherine Evans)