ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Localism and LegCo Election 2016

Seismic Shifts in Hong Kong Politics

The victory of six localist candidates in the 2016 Legislative Council election in Hong Kong reflects the significant changes taking place in the sociopolitical landscape of this former British colony. Espousing local interests and challenging the Chinese encroachment on local politics and economy, the localists have found considerable support among certain sections of the Hong Kong public.

On 4 September 2016, Hong Kong held an election of the Legislative Council (LegCo)—the sixth one after the former British colony was handed over to China in 1997 and the first one after the pro-democracy Umbrella Movement in 2014. Localism has, for the first time, come to be a subject of heated debate in LegCo elections. Five pro-independence candidates were disqualified by the Election Affairs Commission. Judicial reviews have been launched against the election authority, and the hearing at the high court is still pending. Nevertheless, six localist candidates won seats on LegCo using campaign slogans like “autonomy” or “self-determination.”

Localism is a new term that emerged in Hong Kong only in the last 10 years. It has become a catch-all term for any movement and discourse that asserts a strong sense of local identity that often entails a challenge to Chinese encroachment on local politics and economy. Rather than a single party or a unified social movement, localism in Hong Kong has a spectrum of shifting meanings ranging from complete independence from China to self-determination and a high degree of autonomy as promised in the Basic Law, the mini constitution of Hong Kong since its handover to China in 1997.

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