China on Tuesday has brought a overhaul in Hong Kong’s electoral law, in a move to tighten its grip over the territory. A pro-Beijing committee vetted future MPs to ensure mainland loyalty. The aim is to ensure that only “patriotic” people are employed. Carrie Lam, Hong Kong’s chief, has said that there is no “one-size-fits-all” approach to democracy. She went on to say that the vetting committee would not exclude individuals based on their political beliefs. Rather, candidates will be eligible to compete if they can demonstrate loyalty to Hong Kong, follow the basic law, and pass national security tests.
The first election of members of Hong Kong’s Legislative Council (LegCo) under the new rules will take place in December. The proposal was first endorsed by Beijing’s rubber-stamp parliament at the National People’s Congress in March. This modifies the Basic Law’s annexes, which are Hong Kong’s mini-constitution.
Earlier in March, China’s top legislature voted to change the city’s electoral structure. Beijing is not leaving out pro-democracy candidates, according to Carrie Lam, the country’s chief executive. The chief of Hong Kong’s largest pro-democracy party, on the other hand, isn’t so confident. When asked whether his party would run, Lo Kin-hei declined to give a straight response. Residents should only “strive on and hold hope,” he said.
The Chinese state news agency Xinhua has released a list of changes that will influence the formation of Hong Kong’s parliamentary Legislative Council. The number of directly elected LegCo members is reduced from 35 to 20, although the number of seats in the LegCo is expanded from 70 to 90. Before running for the LegCo, all aspiring candidates would have to go through two rounds of screening by the influential pro-Beijing Election Committee. The reforms came months after many opposition members were disqualified, leading to the resignation of the whole LegCo opposition. The new laws will go into force on Wednesday.
Despite the “one country, two systems” concept, Beijing has steadily expanded its presence in Hong Kong in recent years. The contentious national security bill, passed in 2020, in particular, curtails Hong Kong’s judiciary independence. Over the past one year, Beijing has intensified its crackdown on dissent leading to mass arrests of pro-democracy protestors.