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Divided Hong Kong elects council

HONG KONG, China – Hong Kong held an election yesterday that for the first time saw young independence activists calling for a complete break from China running for office.

It comes as some in the semi-autonomous city grow increasingly concerned that Beijing is tightening its grip in a range of areas, from politics to media and education.

The vote for members of the Legislative Council – Hong Kong’s lawmaking body – is the most important poll since major pro-democracy rallies brought parts of the city to a standstill in 2014, calling for political reforms.

When the months-long protests failed to win concessions from Beijing, a new “localist” movement emerged, seeking far more distance from the mainland.

Now some young campaigners are demanding outright independence, others the chance for Hong Kong to determine its own future in a referendum.

The more strident independence activists – slammed by Beijing and Hong Kong authorities as acting illegally by promoting the breakaway – have been banned from running in Sunday’s election, a move which sparked outrage over political censorship.

Victory for the handful who are standing would be a massive coup for the nascent movement, and polls predict some will win seats.

But with their numbers still small, it would not tip the balance of a legislature whose framework is skewed towards the establishment.

The election is only partially democratic and it is almost impossible for the anti-Beijing camp ever to gain a majority. (AFP)