A group of young people committed to rewriting the rules that govern Hong Kong’s relationship with China were swept into office on Sunday in elections for the city’s legislature, lifted by record voter turnout, according to a government vote tally. Some of the young protesters who took part in Hong Kong’s enormous 2014 pro-democracy demonstrations will now wield a small measure of real political power for the first time. The failure of that movement to secure major democratic reforms in Hong Kong, a former British colony, and fears that the city’s considerable autonomy was under assault led these candidates to campaign on everything from self-determination to the outright independence of Hong Kong from mainland China. Their success signals the emergence of a new political force. Until now, the pro-democracy forces in the city have been dominated by politicians who sought to expand the power of voters to select the city’s leaders and lawmakers under the guidance of the mini-constitution that codifies Hong Kong’s special relationship with mainland China, called “one country, two systems.”
These lawmakers did not question China’s sovereignty over Hong Kong, which resumed in 1997 after more than a century of British rule. The young lawmakers disagree. They see no way for Hong Kong to maintain its civil liberties under the current arrangement.
“People have lost faith in ‘one country, two systems,’ and through the election they expressed their disappointment,” said Sixtus Leung, 30, known as Baggio, one of the newly elected so-called localist candidates. “I personally support Hong Kong’s independence.”
In addition to Mr. Leung, Nathan Law, 23, one of the student leaders of the 2014 protests, won a seat on the 70-member Legislative Council. Another candidate from the so-called radical faction, Eddie Chu, who is in his late 30s, won the most votes of any candidate running in Hong Kong’s multiseat geographic districts. Mr. Law is the youngest person ever to be elected to the Council. Another newly elected lawmaker, Yau Wai-ching, 25, is the second-youngest. In all, at least six young candidates who support self-determination for Hong Kong won seats, according to the government tally, which had not been completed as of midmorning on Monday.