Young pro-democracy activists who demand more independence from China won seats in Hong Kong’s legislative election on Sunday, preliminary results have shown.
The victory of at least four young candidates including Nathan Law, 23, who led mass ‘democracy rallies’ two years ago, is likely to strain ties with China’s Communist Party.
An initial count on Monday also suggested Hong Kong's pro-democracy opposition might retain its crucial one-third veto bloc in the 70-seat Legislative Council over major pieces of legislation and public funding that has helped check China's influence.
This was the first major election since the student-led, pro-democracy "Umbrella Revolution" protests that saw roads blocked for 79-days. The protests marked a turning point in the city's politics for which Beijing has given no ground.
Law, who founded the Demosisto party after the protests, said the political gain of ythe outh in the Hong Kong parliament was a "miracle."
"This is absolutely unexpected," Law said. “Nobody imagined this would happen. Every day and night, our team used hard work and sweat to turn defeat into victory,” he added.
"We still have to unite in order to have stronger power to fight against the Chinese Communist Party."
Some democracts who lost their seats to the younger generation also agree that the influnce of the youth in Hong Kong politics is indeed a positive step.
"It’s a new era," said democrat Lee Cheuk-yan, who lost his seat after nearly two decades in public office.
"People want change, change meaning that they want new faces ... but the price is a further fragmentation (of the democracy camp). Ideologically they're talking about independence and they want to assert themselves."
Full results expected later on Monday with delay due to a record turnout, with some having to wait several hours past midnight after the closure of polling to cast ballots at congested voting booths.
"Hong Kong is really chaotic now. I want to do something to help," said 28-year-old Maicy Leung, who was in a snaking queue of several hundred people. "It's to help the next generation and to help myself."
The former British colony was handed back to China in 1997 under a "one country, two systems" agreement that promised to maintain the global financial hub's freedoms and separate laws for at least 50 years, but gave ultimate control to Beijing.
The Electoral Affairs Commission said 58 percent of the city's 3.8 million eligible voters had cast their ballot, up from 53 percent in 2012 and the highest turnout for any legislative election since 1997.