China approved a radical reform of Hong Kong’s electoral system that will render the opposition in the semi-autonomous territory practically without a voice, since it reduces the deputies directly elected by the citizens and stipulates that Beijing will decide whether the candidates are patriots.
This reform imposed by the communist power without consulting the Legislative Council (LegCo), the Hong Kong parliament, is a new step forward for Beijing to regain control of the former British colony after the pro-democracy protests of 2019.
A drastic law on national security came into force last year, leading to the arrest of the main leaders of the pro-democracy movement. Legislative elections, in which the opposition hoped to achieve significant progress, were also postponed for a year, under the pretext of the coronavirus.
Chinese President Xi Jinping enacted the reform, which had been unanimously approved by the Standing Committee of the Chinese Parliament.
One of the most radical changes is the creation of a committee that will assess the level of patriotism of anyone running for a seat in the former British colony, where the next parliamentary elections are scheduled this year.
“The National Security Committee and the National Security Police will provide reports on each candidate, which will help the qualifications review committee,” explained Tam Yiu-chung, Hong Kong’s sole representative on the highest decision-making body of Parliament. Chinese.
Chinese power will play a key role in determining whether a candidate is a patriot worthy of running for a LegCo seat.
With the new law, the number of deputies will also go from 70 to 90, but only 20 of these seats (22%) will be directly elected, compared to the 35 that were attributed in this way in the system so far in force, he added. Tam.
In total, 40 MPs will be appointed by a committee of pro-Beijing personalities. The remaining 30 will be chosen by socio-professional groups, according to a complex procedure that already exists and that has always appointed people favorable to the central power.
The reform was welcomed by the pro-Beijing camp, which had long criticized the legal obstruction of the pro-democracy opposition in the LegCo. Finally, opposition representatives resigned en masse in November to protest the expulsion of four of them.
“The excessive politicization of society and internal disagreements that have torn Hong Kong can now be mitigated,” said local chief executive Carrie Lam.
“The institutions of political power and governance in Hong Kong should always be in the hands of those who love the homeland and Hong Kong,” added the Hong Kong and Macao Affairs Office, a Chinese government body.
In the November 2019 local elections, held after months of protests against Chinese interference, the people of Hong Kong voted overwhelmingly for the pro-democracy opposition candidates.
And the latter had a good chance of confirming their electoral progress in the 2020 legislative elections but they were postponed for a year under the pretext of the coronavirus. Electoral reform should help stifle opposition in the LegCo, experts say.