Civic Party barrister Alvin Yeung Ngok-kiu won a crucial by-election on Sunday to maintain the pan-democrats’ power to block unpopular bills in the legislature. But it was localist Edward Leung Tin-kei’s feat of scoring a sizeable vote share that looks set to steer Hong Kong politics into uncharted territory. Leung, an independence advocate, won 66,524 of 432,581 valid votes – about 15.4 per cent – in New Territories East. In his debut campaign, he came third after Holden Chow Ho-ding of the Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong and well ahead of veteran politician Nelson Wong Sing-chi and district councillor Christine Fong Kwok-shan. “The result has shown that there is a considerable amount of Hongkongers supporting our political philosophy ... and also our means of protest,” said Leung, of Hong Kong Indigenous, which was allegedly behind the Mong Kok riot in early February. The 24-year-old undergraduate said his vote share signalled the arrival of a third force in the city’s politics, now no longer of the traditional pan-democratic versus pro-Beijing binary. “The localists will get ready for the September election, and I think from then on, the three blocs – pan-democrats, localists and pro-establishment – should stand neck to neck,” he said. The by-election, triggered by the resignation of Yeung’s mentor Ronny Tong Ka-wah in the wake of the failed political reform, was regarded as a litmus test of public support for the localists ahead of the general election in September amid escalating tensions and deepening political divisions in the city. Yeung, 34, yesterday vowed to initiate reform within the pan-democrats’ camp even as its united showing allowed it to retain the seat with 37.2 per cent of the vote, beating Beijing loyalist Chow’s 34.8 per cent. “I also understand that some people voted for me not because they completely agreed with what the party and I did, but because they don’t want the seat to go into the hands of the pro-establishment camp,” he said. Chinese University political scientist Dr Ma Ngok said Leung’s performance had sent a strong signal to the administration that the Mong Kok riot was not triggered by only an extreme minority. “The government should reflect on why the violent protests could still win support from many,” he said. But he argued it was too early to say whether Hong Kong Indigenous had a real chance of entering the Legco in September, as there would definitely be a number of new aspirants and incumbent lawmakers fighting for the progressive pro-democracy voters’ support, such as the post-Occupy group Youngspiration and localist group Civic Passion. The results also highlighted the tough road ahead for the moderate approach in a highly polarised city. Leung said his group did not plan to work with the pan-democrats in the upcoming election, making it clear it intended to chart its own course.