Hong Kong Democrats Lose By-Election, Fail to Regain Veto Power

(Bloomberg) -- Hong Kong’s pro-democracy bloc failed to regain its veto power in the city’s legislature after a pro-Beijing candidate won a by-election to represent a populous area of the financial hub.

The candidate, Rebecca Chan Hoi-yan, took the final seat in the Kowloon West constituency with 106,457 votes -- more than 13,000 ahead of her nearest opponent, Lee Cheuk Yan. The previous holder of the seat, Lau Siu-lai, was barred from running after she was removed from Hong Kong’s legislature along with five other lawmakers for improper oath-taking, triggering the by-election.

Hong Kong’s Beijing-backed government has faced criticism for moves to tame dissent in the former British colony, from banning proponents of self determination from standing in elections to barring a journalist from entering the city after hosting a talk by a pro-independence activist at the Foreign Correspondents’ Club.

Those actions have fed concerns that Chinese President Xi Jinping is less committed to Hong Kong’s colonial-era guarantees of free speech, independent courts and capitalist markets.

Having secured more than half of the seats in the geographical constituency, the city’s pro-Beijing camp will now be able to pass any bill, motion, or amendment it proposes. It can resume its push to ban practices used by the opposition to stop or stall legislation.

Hong Kong’s pro-democracy bloc will still have power to block changes to the city’s charter, which requires a two-thirds majority.

©2018 Bloomberg L.P.