China

HK 'umbrella soldiers' win seats in district council vote

Candidates from the pro-democracy 'Youngspiration' group Image copyright Reuters
Image caption The poll result is being seen as a milestone in the pro-democracy movement's evolution into a political force

Candidates from Hong Kong's pro-democracy movement have won seats in district elections - the first vote since the 2014 "umbrella" protests.

At least seven "umbrella soldier" candidates won seats, but the balance of power was unchanged with pro-Beijing candidates retaining their majority.

Hong Kong's 431 district councillors have a largely advisory role.

The protests for direct democracy last year saw thousands take to the streets, in a challenge to Chinese authorities.

Activists blocked highways, demanding the right to freely choose the city's next leader in elections in 2017.

However, China's communist party refused to give in to the demand, insisting that the next leader be elected from a list of vetted candidates.

Some 900 candidates competed for seats in Sunday's elections, about 40 of whom were drawn from the pro-democracy movement.

Image copyright EPA
Image caption The pro-democracy protests paralysed parts of Hong Kong last year

The success of a handful of those "umbrella soldiers" gives the movement a certain political legitimacy, analysts say.

"To some extent, the Umbrella Movement has galvanised a new generation of voters," Willy Lam, from the Chinese University of Hong Kong's Centre for China Studies, told AFP news agency.

"But the overall result is pretty much unchanged... Beijing should be reassured."

The pro-democracy protests - nicknamed after the umbrellas activists used to protect themselves from tear gas and pepper spray - paralysed Hong Kong for several days last year.

They presented the biggest test yet of the "one country, two systems" formula that sought to preserve broad autonomy for Hong Kong when it was returned to Chinese rule in 1997.

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