Hong Kong’s pro-democracy movement has suffered a setback at crucial by-elections which resulted in them losing their all important veto in the former British colony.
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The democrats won only two of four seats contested in the 70-seat Legislative Council and now hold only 26 seats in the chamber, one short of being able to block most bills.
They had hoped to register a protest vote against Beijing with Sunday’s ballot. Many in Hong Kong are worried that the region’s semi-autonomous status is being eroded by China.
The by-election marked the first time the democratic camp has lost its long-standing veto power via the ballot box.
Starry Lee, the leader of the city’s largest pro-Beijing party, the Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong (DAB), said: "The breakthrough in this by-election is a shot of confidence for our supporters and for people who hope Hong Kong can move forward and stop wasting energy with in-fighting."
The four seats were previously held by pro-democracy lawmakers who were expelled after they defied Beijing at their oath-taking ceremony. Another two seats are yet to be contested.
Only 43 percent of eligible voters cast ballots in Sunday’s vote, lower than the 58.3 percent in 2016’s city-wide vote.
Some observers say the pro-democracy camp faces difficulties overcoming pro-Beijing politicians as it is not unified.
Democrats cover a wide spectrum, from pro-independence activists to more centrist politicians.
Britain handed Hong Kong back to Chinese rule in 1997, and freedoms are supposedly protected in the city by the ‘one country, two systems’ rule.