Hong Kong residents voted Sunday in by-elections that give opposition supporters the chance to recapture lost ground in a contest measuring voters’ appetite for democracy in the semiautonomous Chinese city. The vote pitted pro-Beijing loyalists against opposition candidates competing for four seats in the city’s semi-democratic legislature. They’re among six seats left empty when a group of lawmakers were expelled following a 2016 controversy over their oaths, which they used to defy China. The ejected members included two advocating Hong Kong’s independence, something Chinese President Xi Jinping has called a “red line.”
In the vote’s main battleground, little-known activist Au Nok-hin, a neighborhood councilor, was competing against pro-Beijing rival Judy Chan. He was enlisted at the last moment after officials disqualified the pro-democracy camp’s marquee candidate, 21-year-old Agnes Chow, because she advocated for Hong Kongers to determine their own future.
“This election is not just a normal election; it is a battle between the pro-Beijing camp and the pro-democracy camp,” Chow said. It’s “also a very important choice for Hong Kong people for whether they want rule of law or rule by the Communist Party.”