Lau Siu-lai of the Labour Party speaks to the press outside the government headquarters on October 12 hours after being barred from running in the Kowloon West by-election in Hong Kong. Photo: AFP

Hong Kong’s democracy movement took a hit on Monday in a crucial by-election as the city’s pro-Beijing establishment further tightened its grip.

It is another blow to the democratic camp as room for opposition in semi-autonomous Hong Kong shrinks under an assertive China.

Its representation in the legislature suffered a blow in 2016 when six elected lawmakers, including pro-independence activists and former protest leaders, were disqualified following an unprecedented intervention from Beijing.

After the count ended in the early hours of Monday, the democratic camp was left with 26 seats out of 70, meaning they will continue to be outgunned on most bills under the legislature’s “split voting system” as they failed to regain the veto power they lost due to the disqualifications.

In earlier by-elections in March, the democracy camp only managed to take back two of the four contested seats.

The Kowloon West seat contested Sunday had been vacated by pro-democracy activist Lau Siu-lai, one of the legislators ousted from parliament, who was barred last month from trying to win back her seat because of her support for self-determination for Hong Kong.

She was the latest candidate to be blocked from standing as Beijing says it will not tolerate any challenges to its territorial sovereignty.

– With reporting from Agence France-Presse

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