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Divided democrats hold key minority in HK polls

HONG KONG -- Hong Kong's democrats on Monday retained their critical legislative veto over constitutional amendments after an election dominated by mass protests over perceived interference from mainland China.

The final official count after Sunday's vote showed democratic candidates gaining four seats in the Asian financial center's Legislative Council, while pro-Beijing parties boosted their representation by six seats.

The assembly expands from 60 to 70 seats for the next four-year term under changes meant to make it more representative.

Pro-democrats hold only 27 seats even though they won almost 60 percent of the popular vote, while the establishment camp won 43 seats thanks to an electoral system that is tilted in favor of big business groups and vested interests.

The pro-Beijing Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong is the strongest force with 13 seats.

β€œThe pro-democracy camp managed to protect the one-third minority and have 60 percent of the popular vote, which is not bad,” City University of Hong Kong political analyst Joseph Cheng told AFP.

Turnout was a near record of around 53 percent, fuelled by protests against a plan to introduce mandatory Chinese patriotism classes that forced the government into an election-eve policy climbdown.

Tensions have also been brewing over corruption, the yawning gap between rich and poor, soaring property prices fuelled by wealthy mainlanders and the strains on public services from millions of mainland tourists.

The democrats' minority bloc means that the executive β€” under a leader who is chosen by a 1,200-strong committee packed with pro-establishment business leaders β€” will not be able to force through undemocratic amendments.

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Hong Kong Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying, second right, accompanied by electoral officials, empties a ballot box at the central ballot counting station after Legislative Council elections in Hong Kong, Monday, Sept. 10. (AP)

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