Hong Kong to cut democratically elected seats on local councils

6 May, 2023 | Pragati Singh

Hong Kong National

The proposal would decrease the number of directly elected seats from 452 to 88.

The number of democratically elected seats in local district councils will be reduced by 80%, and candidates will be subject to a screening process, according to the announcement made by the Hong Kong government, according to Nikkei Asia.

For the city’s pro-democracy movement, which has been under pressure ever since Beijing passed a national security law in 2020, the decision is yet another significant setback. The proposal would decrease the number of directly elected seats from 452 to 88.

According to Nikkei Asia, the majority of the seats would be filled by local committees connected to the government and the chief executive, who serves as the head of the Hong Kong administration. In addition to being nominated by local committees, candidates would also need to go through a rigorous screening process to weed out those who oppose the governments of China or Hong Kong.

In Hong Kong, there are 18 district councils, and most of them were elected democratically until this year. During elections, they act as discussion points for neighbourhood issues and a way to gauge voter sentiment. According to Nikkei Asia, the upcoming elections, which will take place in November or December, will serve as the official launch of the new system.

At a press conference, Chief Executive John Lee emphasised the importance of having a stable government by asserting that violent Hong Kong pro-independence activists have previously infiltrated councils. The pro-democracy movement swept to an overwhelming victory in 2019, when anti-government protests were at their height, winning more than 80% of district council seats.

Since then, new legislation has been passed mandating that all politicians swear allegiance to the Hong Kong government; those who fail to do so risk having their positions removed. Over two-thirds of the 380 people who were elected in 2019 reportedly do not still hold those positions, according to local media, Nikkei Asia reported.