Beijing has approved a sweeping overhaul of Hong Kong’s electoral system as part of its efforts to consolidate its increasingly authoritarian grip on the global financial hub.
The new measures include slashing the number of directly elected seats and ensuring a majority of the city’s lawmakers will be selected by a reliably pro-Beijing committee.
The new measures, which bypassed Hong Kong’s legislature and were imposed directly by Beijing, are the latest move aimed at quashing the city’s democracy movement after huge protests.
Tam Yiu-chung, Hong Kong’s sole delegate on China’s rubber-stamp parliament, told Agence France-Presse the changes were unanimously passed by 167 members of the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress.
China’s official Xinhua news agency said in a short report: “President Xi Jinping signed presidential orders to promulgate the amended annexes.”
However, Hong Kong’s 7.5 million residents are still not sure what the new law contains, with no details yet published.
Maria Tam, a senior politician who works with China’s parliament on Hong Kong matters, told Reuters that Hong Kong’s election committee, in charge of selecting the city’s chief executive, will pick 40 representatives of the city’s legislature as part of the changes approved by the National People’s Congress Standing Committee.
The number of directly elected representatives to the city’s legislature will fall to 20 from 35 as part of the changes, Tam added. The size of the legislature will increase from 70 to 90.
Beijing will also increase the size of the electoral committee from 1,200 to 1,500, as part of the restructuring. Chinese authorities have said the shake-up was aimed at getting rid of “loopholes and deficiencies” that threatened national security during anti-government unrest in 2019 and to ensure only “patriots” run the city.
Anyone standing for election will also have to be vetted for their political views.
Tam Yiu-chung said the vetting committee would be created by authorities in Hong Kong and the city’s new national security apparatus would have a say in who is approved.
“The National Security Committee and the National Security Police will provide reports on every single candidate to assist the vetting by the qualification review committee,” he said.
The measures are the most significant overhaul of Hong Kong’s political structure since it returned to Chinese rule in 1997.
With Reuters and Agence France-presse