In a "miraculous" turn of events, Nathan Law, a 23-year-old pro-independence leader of Hong Kong's 2014 "Umbrella Movement", has won a seat in Hong Kong's legislative election.
According to Reuters, Hong Kong voted on Sunday in its first major election since pro-democracy protests in 2014. Voters flocked to cast ballots in record numbers; the Electoral Affairs Commission said 58 per cent of the city's 3.8 million eligible voters had cast their ballot, up from 53 per cent in 2012 and the highest turnout for any legislative election since 1997.
Law, who rose to prominence during the 2014 student protests, entered the legislature with a major victory, gaining more than 50,000 votes. He later called the result a "miracle" and said showed the people of Hong Kong "wanted change".
"It can be described as a miracle that I won," Law said. "It was out of my imagination that I won with more than 50,000 votes. The [large number of] votes will remind me to do better and not to let people down in the next four years."
Law heads the new Demosisto political party, which he founded in April along with Joshua Wong, an outspoken Christian who led the now-disbanded student group, Scholarism.
They pledged to work for the city's "self-determination," according to the South China Morning Post. In its manifesto, the party stated it would hold a referendum in 10 years to let Hongkongers decide their own fate beyond 2047, when the principle of "one country, two systems" officially expires, and would adopt non-violent protest tactics.
"We can no longer follow the Chinese government's rules in fighting for democracy in Hong Kong," Law said in an August interview. "Our one simple goal is to protect Hong Kong's interests and preserve its way of life from being warped under the Communist regime."
Law became secretary-general of the Federation of Students following the 79-day pro-democracy movement in the city two years ago. He was one of five student leaders who sat at the negotiating table opposite Hong Kong's leading officials, led by Chief Secretary Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor.
At the time, thousands of students participated in the "Umbrella Movement", blocking off streets in protest of the Chinese government's insistence on screening political candidates in Hong Kong to ensure their allegiance to the Communist party.
Law, Wong and another student leader, Alex Chow, were last month sentenced for their role in the protest, and Law received a community service order of 120 hours for "unlawful assembly".
Wong applauded Law's win in a series of tweets: "Just a few months ago, 19-year-old @joshuawongcf was heckled while visiting Columbia U. by PRC students dismissing him as too immature," he tweeted. "Now @joshuawongcf's party @demosisto has won election with youngest lawmaker in HK, @nathanlawkc. #LegCo2016."
Law told reporters his election is a validation of the 2014 rallies: "There are a lot more people coming out to vote because they see new choice," he said. "We inherited some spirit from the (Umbrella) Movement and I hope that that can continue in the future."
Following the vote, Hong Kong Secretary for Constitutional Affairs Raymond Tam said the government would do its best to "bring them around to a more centrist position".
"But it's too early to say if this will be an issue," he said.
Pro-establishment lawmakers like Elizabeth Quat said she hoped the issue of splitting from China wouldn't enter the legislature or it could significantly damage Hong Kong's economic interests.
"Independence is not realistic at all," she said. "Hopefully this will not be their main objective."