U.S. Politicians Celebrate Hong Kong Pro-Democracy Landslide: 'Freedom Wins!'

Hong Kong pro-democracy activists scored a shocking win in local elections this weekend, sweeping the contest to take 17 of 18 district councils and 388 of 452 seats—almost 90 percent.

The vote—held amid serious unrest over Chinese government encroachment into the semi-autonomous territory—represented the most significant victory for the anti-government movement since mass anti-Beijing protests began in June.

Some 2.94 million voters cast ballots, representing 71.2 percent of all those eligible to vote. This is a huge increase from the last local elections, when 47 percent of those eligible to vote turned out.

The protest movement has captured the world's attention and elicited support from across the globe, much to Beijing's anger. Although some expected a significant backlash against pro-Beijing candidates, the scale of the victory delighted pro-democracy parties and voters.

Last week, Congress passed legislation that will—if President Donald Trump gives his approval—allow the U.S. to sanction Hong Kong and Chinese officials restricting human rights in the former British colony.

It will also require the State Department to annually review its preferential trade relationship with the territory, allowing America to withdraw if Hong Kong's autonomy is being undermined.

U.S. lawmakers from both parties were quick to celebrate the results of the local elections on Sunday.

The landslide result has prompted Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam—now a reviled figure among activists—to "seriously reflect" on her government's approach.

Florida Senator Marco Rubio has been one of the leading advocates for the Hong Kong legislation that was passed by Congress last week. He wrote on Twitter that the "results speak for themselves: the people of Hong Kong want a voice in their future." He added that the poll should "inspire us all to be engaged."

Massachusetts Senator and Democratic 2020 presidential hopeful Elizabeth Warren said the local election results were the product of months of street protests by Hong Kong activists. "This weekend, they went to the ballot box and sent the powerful message that they want to keep their democracy—and Beijing must respect that," she said.

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy said the vote represented a "strong rebuke of the authoritarian policies of Beijing." He noted that voters "came out in record numbers, nearly double the last election, to support pro-democracy candidates."

GOP Senator Marsha Blackburn of Tennessee declared, "Freedom wins!" The wrote on Twitter that the "monumental defeat" of pro-Beijing lawmakers "sends a powerful message to Beijing—keep your authoritarian regime on the mainland."

Colorado Senator Cory Gardner addressed pro-democracy activists in a tweet, suggesting "the free world hears you." He also noted the record-breaking turnout, which he said was "demanding democracy and autonomy from Beijing."

Democratic Rep. Ro Khanna, meanwhile, urged fellow lawmakers to apply their support for Hong Kongers to anti-government protesters across the world. "From Iran to Hong Kong to Saudi Arabia, Chile and Bolivia, the United States needs to make it clear that attacks on freedom of expression and violence against protesters is unacceptable," he tweeted.

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Pro-democracy supporters chant as they celebrate after pro-Beijing candidate Junius Ho lost a seat in the district council elections in Tuen Mun district of Hong Kong, early on November 25, 2019. PHILIP FONG/AFP via Getty Images/Getty