Euronews is no longer accessible on Internet Explorer. This browser is not updated by Microsoft and does not support the last technical evolutions. We encourage you to use another browser, such as Edge, Safari, Google Chrome or Mozilla Firefox.
BREAKING NEWS

Hong Kong democrats hope to regain veto powers in crucial by-election

Hong Kong democrats hope to regain veto powers in crucial by-election
FILE PHOTO: Pro-democracy lawmaker Lam Cheuk-ting (L) and Democratic Party member Lee Cheuk-yan meet journalists outside a hospital in Hong Kong, China August 11, 2017. REUTERS/Bobby Yip -
Copyright
BOBBY YIP(Reuters)
Euronews logo
Text size Aa Aa

By James Pomfret

HONGKONG (Reuters) – Hong Kong’s democratic opposition is aiming to win back a crucial legislative council seat in an election on Sunday that will restore some of its veto power at a time when the China-ruled city’s freedoms are under strain.

The city’s opposition Democrats squandered a chance in March to regain their veto power, garnering only two of four seats in a by-election and leaving them one seat short of blocking most bills in the 70-seat chamber, now largely controlled by pro-Beijing allies.

After 156 years of British colonial rule, Hong Kong returned to China in 1997 under a “one country, two systems” formula guaranteeing it a high degree of autonomy and the promise of eventual universal suffrage.

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.

A pro-independence political party was banned this year, while several promising democracy activists were barred from contesting various polls after being deemed ideologically unsuitable for public office.

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.

“Apathy is our biggest enemy so far,” Lee Cheuk-yan, a veteran former lawmaker and candidate for the main opposition pro-democracy party, told Reuters.

“This election is crucial … we can further resist the erosion of our power base by the (Chinese) Communist party. I think most people don’t want Hong Kong to become another Chinese city.”

Lee’s main rival will be pro-establishment Rebecca Chan Hoi-yan, a former television journalist with broadcaster TVB. In the run-up to the election Chan was ensnared in several controversies including plagiarising the work of democratic politicians.

The poll comes at a time of increasing international concern towards a perceived deterioration in Hong Kong civil liberties.

Nine activists including lawmakers and university professors are now facing public nuisance charges stemming from the massive pro-democracy “Occupy Central” protests in 2014. Their landmark trial could see them jailed for up to seven years.

A senior editor for the Financial Times, Victor Mallet, was also effectively expelled from the city in recent months, soon after he helped host a speech by an independence activist at the Hong Kong Foreign Correspondents’ Club.

The U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission warned in a congressional report this month that China had “ramped up its interference” and had “closed down the political space for pro-democracy activists to express discontent”.

(Reporting by James Pomfret; Editing by Michael Perry)

euronews provides breaking news articles from reuters as a service to its readers, but does not edit the articles it publishes. Articles appear on euronews.com for a limited time.