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Hong Kong prepares for first big vote since 2014 pro-democracy protests

Tens of thousands of protesters called for 'real universal suffrage' during a march for democracy in February last year Photograph: (Getty)

WION Hong Kong Sep 04, 2016, 02.15 AM (IST)

Hong Kong goes to the polls today and for the first time the semi-autonomous city will see young independence activists calling for a complete break from China run for office.

The election for the Legislative Council is the most important one since 2014, when mass pro-democracy protests, calling for political reforms, got the city to a standstill. 

The election comes in the midst of increasing concerns in Hong Kong that Beijing is tightening its control over the politics, media and education.

This fear has grown ever since five Hong Kong booksellers known for controversial titles about top Beijing politicians disappeared last year only to resurface in detention on the mainland.

The disappearance fuelled a  “localist” movement which grew out of the failure of the 2014 protests to win concessions on political reform from Beijing and is seeking a greater distance from China.

 

The election comes in the midst of increasing concerns in Hong Kong that Beijing is tightening its control over the politics, media and education.



While some young campaigners are demanding an outright independence, there are a few who demand a referendum.

The harsher independence activists, slammed by Beijing and Hong Kong authorities for acting illegally by promoting the breakaway, were banned by the government from running in the election, leading to an outrage over political censorship.

Polls predict some will win seats and victory for those who are standing would be a massive coup for the movement.

But their numbers are still too small and the election is only partially democratic, making it almost impossible for the anti-Beijing camp ever to gain a majority.

Forty of the Legislative Council’s 70 members will be directly elected by the public on today and the rest will be chosen by small voting blocs from special interest groups representing businesses and social sectors.

Those seats usually go to pro-Beijing candidates.

The pro-democracy camp wants to ensure it holds on to enough seats to block important bills, that  need to be voted through by a two thirds majority. A loss of four seats would mean losing the veto power.

On Saturday, five democrats dropped out of campaigning to consolidate voting behind those candidates with the best chance of winning.

(WION with inputs from AFP)

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