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Hong Kong democrats fail to regain veto power in crucial by-election

Hong Kong democrats fail to regain veto power in crucial by-election
Supporters of Lee Cheuk-yan, a candidate for Hong Kong’s democratic camp, try to canvass votes for a crucial legislative by-election on Sunday at the Mei Foo residential estate, in Hong Kong, China November 25, 2018. REUTERS/James Pomfret -
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HONGKONG (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)

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