Firebrand Democrats probe Hong Kong, election organizer resigns under pressure from Beijing

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HONG KONG (Reuters) – Young fire activists heavily polled Hong Kong’s pro-democracy primaries in the first results released Wednesday, but an election official resigned after Beijing warned that the vote could violate a new law on national security.

FILE PHOTO: Pro-democracy candidate Au Nok-hin (R) celebrates with disqualified lawmaker Nathan Law after winning the Legislative Council by-election in Hong Kong, China on March 12, 2018. REUTERS / Bobby Yip /

Former democracy lawmaker Au Nok-hin helped organize weekend polls that saw more than 610,000 people vote in what was widely seen as a symbolic protest against Beijing’s sweeping city laws .

“Withdrawal is the only choice (I have to, for) … protect myself and others,” Au said in a Facebook post.

The first polls were aimed at selecting Democratic candidates for the September elections for the Legislative Council, the governing body of Hong Kong.

The results of the primaries so far show that 16 candidates from “resistance” or “localist” camps have been elected, surpassing the traditional Democrats who have obtained 12 votes.

The good performances of the young generation reflect a potential change of guard towards a more radical grouping likely to annoy the authorities in Beijing.

The remaining results are expected later Wednesday.

Some voters are frustrated with more moderate traditional democracy groups in Hong Kong at a time when Beijing is tightening its grip on the city with new security legislation seen by many as the latest attempt to destroy freedoms.

Democrats are preparing for the September 6 elections when they hope to win a 70-seat majority for the first time.

In comments that critics say were intended to instill fear in the community, the Beijing Higher Office in the city, the Hong Kong Liaison Office, the Chinese government agency Hong Kong, and the Macao Affairs Office, and city chief Carrie Lam all said the primaries could violate the new national security law.

While a spokesperson for the Liaison Office said the pro-democracy camp’s bid for a legislative majority was an attempt to lead a “color revolution” in Hong Kong, referring to the populist uprising in other parts of the world.

“For those who do not recognize democracy or who do not agree with democratic values, it is difficult to understand the meaning of the primary election,” said Benny Tai, another organizer of pro-democracy polls.

New security law punishes what Beijing broadly defines as secession, subversion, terrorism and collusion with foreign forces up to life imprisonment and sees Chinese intelligence agents officially operating in the city to the first time.

Critics Fear It Will Overwhelm The Broad Freedoms Promised In Hong Kong Upon Return To Chinese Power In 1997, Supporters Say It Will Bring Stability To City After One Year Of Anti Protests -governmental, sometimes violent.

Hong Kong police arrested the city’s Democratic Party vice president Lo Kin-hei on Wednesday for illegal rallies linked to anti-government protests in November, he wrote on his Facebook page. He was released on bail.

Hong Kong police said they have charged five men between the ages of 21 and 70 for illegal meetings, without giving a name, and they will be brought to trial on August 21.

These measures come as US President Donald Trump on Tuesday ordered the end of Hong Kong’s special status under US law to punish China for what he called “oppressive actions” against the former colony. British.

“Hong Kong will now be treated the same as mainland China,” said Trump.

FILE PHOTO: Newly elected deputy Au Nok-hin walks after being sworn in at the Legislative Council in Hong Kong, China on March 21, 2018. REUTERS / Bobby Yip

China said on Wednesday that it will impose retaliatory sanctions on American individuals and entities after Trump signed a law penalizing banks for doing business with Chinese officials who are implementing Hong Kong’s new national security law.

Another blow to the city’s international status, the New York Times (NYT.N) said he would move part of his Hong Kong office to Seoul as concerns over security law restrict media and other freedoms in the city.

Additional reports from Aleksander Solum; Written by Farah Master and Anne Marie Roantree; Editing by Michael Perry

Our standards:Principles of the Thomson Reuters Trust.

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