G7 expresses 'grave concern' over electoral changes in Hong Kong

Brenda Watkins
March 13, 2021

Hong Kong's influential Election Committee, which selects the city's leader and is already stacked with Beijing loyalists, will be expanded to 1,500 representatives, up from 1,200. We urge the U.S.to stop interfering in Hong Kong affairs, to stop interfering in China's internal affairs, and not to go down the wrong path even further.

Experts here say the move brings Hong Kong into line with mainland's "restrictive political system", and warn that New Zealanders should now be concerned about the Chinese Communist Party extending its reach to the city's courts - which could have commercial implications.

"Beijing's decision to impose radical changes to restrict participation in Hong Kong's electoral system constitutes a further clear breach of the legally binding Sino-British Joint Declaration", U.K. Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab said in a statement, referring to the 1984 agreement mapping out Hong Kong's political future as it transitioned away from British rule into Chinese sovereignty, completed in 1997.

China's rubber-stamp parliament, the National People's Congress, on Thursday unanimously endorsed a new measure for Hong Kong that will give a pro-Beijing committee the power to appoint lawmakers in the semi-autonomous Chinese territory.

Britain has been a strong critic of China's crackdown on pro-democracy campaigners in Hong Kong, and angered Beijing by announcing a visa scheme offering millions of its residents a pathway to U.K.'s citizenship.

An increased number of pro-Beijing officials would weaken the power of the opposition to influence the city's leadership.

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Beijing will increase the size of the electoral committee from 1,200 to 1,500, and the legislature from 70 to 90 seats. The Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs pushed back, comparing activists in Hong Kong to those who overran the U.S.

A pro-China staff member stands at a stall to support a proposal to draft changes of election rules for Hong Kong on a downtown street in Hong Kong.

He insisted "you will still be able to hear different voices" in Hong Kong government. "Furthermore, the changes will reduce freedom of speech, which is a right guaranteed in the Sino-British Joint Declaration", the statement read.

In 1985, China and the United Kingdom agreed that Hong Kong would return to Chinese sovereignty in 1997 under certain conditions, and for the territory to "enjoy a high degree of autonomy".

One of the points in the declaration is the preservation of "the social and economic system in Hong Kong", which was to "remain unchanged" after China took over.

"We also call on China and the Hong Kong authorities to restore confidence in Hong Kong's political institutions and end the unwarranted oppression of those who promote democratic values and the defence of rights and freedoms", it said.

Chinese state media on Thursday sketched out some of the key provisions of the law, which will still need to be written and then promulgated under the country's opaque political system.

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