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BEIJING, China – China’s legislature is discussing draft guidelines that would drastically change Hong Kong’s electoral system to give Beijing almost complete control over the region’s election results.
Although Beijing did not release details of the proposals, he outlined broad changes that would effectively allow Beijing to scrutinize candidates for the Hong Kong Legislative Council and convene an election commission that elects the region’s chief executive.
Key among the proposed guidelines would be to increase the size of Hong Kong’s Legislative Council and its Electoral Commission. This committee will also scrutinize all candidates running for legislative council positions, guaranteeing Beijing a majority in each body.
“Hong Kong’s administrative power must be maintained in the hands of the Patriots,” Xia Baolong, a senior Chinese official in charge of Hong Kong affairs, said in a speech last week.
“You can’t say you’re a patriot, but you don’t like or respect the leadership of the Chinese Communist Party,” added Eric Tsang, a senior Hong Kong official, a day later.
Beijing-appointed officials have been preparing to introduce these electoral changes for weeks ahead of China’s annual political meetings.
“This need to change the electoral system and arrangements in Hong Kong … is to ensure that whoever rules Hong Kong is patriotic,” the current Hong Kong chief executive told reporters last month. “
But the public announcement of the proposals came late Thursday night from a senior Communist official, Jan Yesui. Then Hong Kong’s electoral system suddenly appeared on the agenda of China’s National People’s Congress with rubber stamps hours before it convened for a week of annual political meetings. The Chinese parliament is expected to adopt the guidelines by March 11, when the meetings end. An elite group of legislators will create more detailed implementing rules afterwards.
Two of Hong Kong’s former top leaders have called on people in the region to accept Beijing’s rule. Tung Chee-hwa, the city’s first chief executive, issued a statement Friday arguing that Hong Kong had reached a turning point when “it needs to be reformed.” Tung is currently vice chairman of the China People’s Political Consultative Conference, a political body that also meets this week.
Leung Chun-ying, who was chief executive until 2017, said in a two-part video that many of the region’s political opposition are “separatists” who oppose Beijing’s rule: “Hong Kong is actually coming with additional autonomous power , which we enjoy Beijing. “Leung is currently a delegate to the Chinese legislature.
Hong Kong has never been an electoral democracy, but under the region’s Basic Law – a mini-constitution adopted after the region was handed over to Chinese rule in 1997 – residents can vote for local district councilors and directly elect half of the country’s 70 lawmakers. region.
Even before Beijing’s proposed electoral changes, mainland China had a significant influence on Hong Kong’s government.
The 1,200-member Hong Kong Electoral Commission, which elects the highest executive in the region, is already full of officials who prefer Beijing and Beijing-appointed delegates to two political bodies on the continent. In 2014, Beijing announced it would screen future candidates for chief executive, sparking major peaceful protests.
“Some of the chaos in Hong Kong shows that there are obvious loopholes and shortcomings in the current electoral system and mechanisms that allow anti-Chinese and anti-Hong Kong forces to take power in Hong Kong,” said Wang Chen, vice chairman of China’s standing elite committee. said in a speech on Friday.
Wang is probably referring to the November 2019 local elections, in which pro-democracy forces won 17 of 18 of the district councils in the region amid record turnout. The choice of the landslide gave pro-democracy politicians hope that they could work together to win enough seats on the Legislative Council, some members of which are helping to decide Hong Kong’s next chief executive.
Last July, pro-democracy activists ran an informal primary poll to select the most popular publicist lawmakers, a move that Hong Kong officials called potentially subversive. Fifty polling organizers were eventually arrested under national security law. Hong Kong has postponed legislative elections by one year, citing the coronavirus pandemic.
This week, forty-seven of those arrested were formally charged with subversive activities to organize the informal primary program last July. All but fifteen were released on bail before their trial in May.
“Beijing is no longer ready to tolerate elections in which it cannot be rigged,” said Alvin Chung, a lawyer at the American-Asian Law Institute at New York University.
Amy Cheng contributed to research in Beijing.