Hong Kong’s pro-democracy camp will try to claw back lost seats as polls opened early Sunday in controversial by-elections that have exposed the heart of the city’s political divide. The vote comes as China signals a harder line against any challenges to its sovereignty, with high-profile young candidate Agnes Chow barred from standing because her party promotes self-determination for the semi-autonomous city. Beijing has become increasingly incensed at the emergence of activists advocating independence and sees calls for self-determination as part of a splittist push. The by-election was triggered after Beijing forced the disqualification of six rebel lawmakers who had swept to victory in citywide elections in 2016.
Some were former protest leaders, others openly advocated independence. All were ousted from their posts for inserting protests into their oaths of office. Four of the six vacant seats will be contested Sunday.
“The election is not just about selecting me as a candidate, it is also about voting for justice,” said Au Nok-hin, who stepped in to contest the Hong Kong Island seat after Agnes Chow was disallowed.
The seat was originally held by Nathan Law, one of the leaders of 2014’s mass pro-democracy Umbrella Movement rallies, who was among the six thrown out of office.