Scuffles in Hong Kong at key vote for democrats

Hong Kong's best-known young activists were heckled by Chinese nationalists in tense scenes yesterday as the city's pro-democracy camp tried to claw back lost seats in controversial by-elections.

Sunday's vote once more exposed the city's deep political divide and comes as China takes an increasingly tough line against any challenges to its sovereignty.

High-profile candidate Agnes Chow was barred from standing because her party promotes self-determination for the semi-autonomous city.

Soon after polls opened, several men and a woman heckled Ms Chow as well as leading pro-democracy activists Joshua Wong and Nathan Law near a polling station where they were supporting pro-democracy candidate Au Nok Hin, according to an AFP reporter at the scene.

One of the men barged into Mr Wong, who led mass demonstrations in 2014 calling for greater democratic freedoms.

"Traitors and running dogs!" a man repeatedly yelled while others hurled repeated obscenities. Mr Wong told reporters that threats to freedoms in the city "prove that it's more necessary for us to vote".

Beijing has become concerned at the emergence of activists advocating independence and views calls for self-determination as part of a dangerous push. The by-election was triggered after Beijing forced the disqualification of six rebel lawmakers who had swept to victory in citywide elections in 2016.

Some were former protest leaders, others openly advocated independence.

All were ousted from their posts for inserting protests into their oaths of office. Four of the six vacant seats were contested yesterday. - AFP