China’s parliament approves plan to reform Hong Kong’s electoral system

Grant Boone
March 11, 2021

Critics say the changes to the electoral system move Hong Kong in the opposite direction, leaving the democratic opposition with the most limited space it has ever had since the 1997 handover, if any at all.

Touted by Chinese officials as an "improved democratic electoral system with Hong Kong characteristics", the proposal was endorsed nearly unanimously by the rubber-stamp National People's Congress in Beijing on the final day of its annual session.

"It's a great leap backwards for Hong Kong's democracy", Cheung said.

Since those protests started, most high-profile democratic politicians and activists have been sent to jail or are in self-exile.

Hong Kong Justice Secretary Teresa Cheng said in an interview Tuesday that opinions were "no more than an utterance of no value" if the facts weren't established.

The moves, including Beijing's imposition of a national security law on Hong Kong outlawing speech deemed subversive or secessionist, have been criticized by the U.S. and a violation of China's treaty commitment to maintain the city's "high degree of autonomy".

Yang pointed out if the chaos in the elections in the HKSAR were left unchecked and anti-China disruptors allowed to worm their way into the governance structure and unscrupulously endanger national security and Hong Kong's prosperity and stability, Hong Kong would be plunged into violent turbulence, its status as an worldwide financial, shipping and trading center under threat, and the interests of the global community here in peril.

Lau, the former Hong Kong legislator, said concerns expressed by some Chinese officials about a possible independence movement or attempt to overthrow the government are overblown.

China's parliament has endorsed electoral reforms that pave the way for Hong Kong's biggest shake-up since the former British colony was handed back to Chinese rule in 1997.

Bernard Chan, who heads Lam's de facto cabinet, conceded earlier this week that the changes to Hong Kong's electoral system will wipe out the territory's democracy development since the 1997 handover to China from the United Kingdom.

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Hong Kong Secretary for Mainland and Constitutional Affairs Erick Tsang has defined patriotism as "holistic love" for China, including the leadership of the Chinese Communist Party.

"[It's] a direct attack on Hong Kong's autonomy, Hong Kong's freedoms and the democratic processes".

Yang pointed out that the allegations that vilify the central government's efforts to improve the electoral system of the HKSAR and predict doom and gloom for Hong Kong are nothing but alarmist rumors, which run counter to the intention of the central government's decision and Hong Kong people's will.

But, Chinese Premier Li Keqiang told reporters the goal of the changes was to "adhere to and improve" the one country, two systems principle agreed for Hong Kong at the handover.

The electoral reforms would cut 117 district councillor seats in Hong Kong's legislative body and replace them with "patriotic" pro-Beijing lawmakers.

Hong Kong's top legal official warned residents to steer clear of criticisms of the government that stray too far from the facts, as officials defend Beijing's plan to overhaul the city's elections.

A new panel would be set up to screen the qualifications of candidates for election committee members, the chief executive and Legislative Council lawmakers.

A general view shows the closing session of the National Peoples Congress at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing.

The proposed changes would increase the number of election committee members from 1,200 to 1,500.

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