Hong Kong saw low turnout numbers for an election Sunday to replace four lawmakers disqualified over oaths last year the Chinese government deemed improper.
The vote pits pro-Beijing loyalists against opposition candidates, who worry that if they do not win at least some of the seats they will not have veto power, effectively securing Beijing's power in the city's semi-democratic legislature.
Pro-democracy candidate Agnes Chow, who had hoped to replace disqualified lawmaker and activist Nathan Law, was barred from running at the last minute because she advocated for Hong Kongers to determine their own future.
"This election is not just a normal election; it is a battle between the pro-Beijing camp and the pro-democracy camp," Chow said, adding that it was an important choice for the people of Hong Kong between "rule of law or rule by the Communist Party".
Little-known activist Au-Nok-hin, a neighborhood councilor, was enlisted to replace Chow to run against pro-Beijing rival Judy Chan in the vote's main battleground.
Fifteen candidates are running to fill the four seats vacated when oaths by pro-democracy lawmakers were declared invalid — a move that critics say was politically motivated.
The vote comes as China's National People’s Congress voted to abolish constitutional term limits, leaving democracy supporters in Hong Kong more worried about diminishing autonomy under the potentially indefinite rule of Xi Jinping.
In 1997, Hong Kong was returned to China from British colonial rule under a "one country, two systems" formula which allowed Hong Kong a certain level of autonomy. But tensions have increased in the past two decades, periodically seeing activists pushing in vain for independence from Beijing.