China warns ‘localists’ against reshaping Hong Kong’s political landscape


China has warned that anyone advocating Hong Kong’s independence could be punished, the BBC reports:

The stern message came after young pro-democracy activists won seats on Hong Kong’s Legislative Council (LegCo). The Chinese government underlined its “resolute opposition” to any independence activities on the council or outside it. Many in Hong Kong are increasingly concerned about Beijing’s interventions in its politics.

Thirty pro-democracy candidates were elected to the 70-seat LegCo on Sunday, up from 27 previously, meaning they retain the ability to veto major constitutional changes. At least six young candidates who support self-determination or some level of greater independence for Hong Kong won seats. They include Nathan Law (left), a 23-year-old who played a prominent role in 2014’s “Umbrella Protests”.

But political analyst Chung Kim-wah of Polytechnic University said the government would need to be wary of exacerbating divisions in society by freezing out those pushing for more autonomy, known as localists, The Guardian reports.

“Localists got 20% of the total votes, including ones that were not voted in. They represent part of society. The government cannot just hastily disqualify them,” he said.

“I think the central message is very clear,” said Dixon Sing, a political analyst at the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology. “A lot of Hong Kong people want to have a political change in tactics from the more mild confrontational one adopted by the [moderate democrats] to more confrontational one adopted by these new [groups].”

“It shows how Hong Kong people want to change,” Law told reporters when asked about his victory. “People are voting for a new way and new future of our democratic movement.”

Leaders in Beijing and Hong Kong will have to reconsider their hard-line approach toward rising pro-democracy opposition after it backfired, “because now with the entry of a new generation of young democrats into the legislature, the politics inside the legislature will be very fierce,” said Sonny Lo, a political analyst at The Education University of Hong Kong.

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