China introduces new rules ensuring that only ‘patriots’ loyal to Beijing can rule Hong Kong as it crushes democracy and dissent
- Beijing has been gaining traction over HK since the National Security Act in June
- Communists claimed that the latest revision clears “loopholes and shortcomings.”
- Number of directly elected parliamentarians reduced and houses smaller
- Increased number of loyalists in the committee that selects the Hong Kong leader
China today imposed new rules to ensure that only ‘patriots’ loyal to Beijing can rule Hong Kong.
Beijing cut the number of seats in parliament by a quarter while bolstering the size of a loyalist committee that selects the Hong Kong leader.
The Communist Party has steadily tightened its grip on the former British colony since suppressing dissent over its national security law in June.
Officials claimed the latest turmoil is aimed at clearing ‘loopholes and shortcomings’ that put the country at risk during anti-government unrest in 2019 and that it was important that only ‘patriots’ ruled the city.
Pro-democracy protesters march in the streets during a protest in Hong Kong on December 8, 2019. Beijing imposed a new national security law in June to stamp out the pro-democracy movement
President Xi Jinping will chair a military rally in Fujian on March 24
The Communist Party reduced the number of directly elected parliamentarians from 35 to 20 and reduced the size of the legislature by 20 seats to 70.
Meanwhile, an ‘election committee’ tasked with selecting the chief executive in the city was expanded from 1,200 to 1,500 members.
The measures are part of Beijing’s efforts to consolidate its increasingly authoritarian hold on its freest city following the enactment of a national security law in June, which critics see as a tool to quash dissent.
The representation of 117 community-level district councilors in the election commission would also be scrapped and the six district council seats in the Legislative Council would also disappear.
District councils are the city’s only fully democratic institution, and nearly 90% of the 452 district seats are controlled by the Democratic camp after a vote in 2019. They usually deal with grassroots issues such as public transport connections and waste collection.
The electoral restructuring was unopposed by the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress at the height of the Chinese legislature.
As part of the uproar, a powerful new vetting committee will monitor candidates for public office and work with national security authorities to ensure their loyalty to Beijing.
Chinese authorities have said the turmoil is aimed at clearing ‘loopholes and shortcomings’ that threatened national security during anti-government unrest in 2019 and ensuring that only ‘patriots’ run the city.
The measures are the most significant overhaul of Hong Kong’s political structure since it returned to Chinese rule in 1997 and changed the size and makeup of the legislature and electoral committee in favor of pro-Beijing figures.
Beijing had promised universal suffrage as an ultimate goal for Hong Kong in its mini-constitution, the Basic Law, which also guarantees the city’s broad autonomy not found in mainland China, including freedom of expression.
Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam with a face mask speaks at a press conference on March 23, 2021 in Hong Kong
Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam listens to questions during a Q&A session at the Hong Kong Legislative Council
Critics say the changes are taking Hong Kong in the opposite direction, giving the democratic opposition the most limited space it has ever had since the handover, if at all.
Since the introduction of the security law, most pro-democracy activists and politicians have become entangled in it or have been arrested for other reasons.
Some elected lawmakers have been disqualified, with authorities taking their oaths insincerely, while dozens of democracy activists have been driven into exile.
In February, Xia Baolong, head of the Hong Kong and Macao Affairs Office of the State Council, said the Chinese cabinet, that patriots would also resolutely oppose foreign interference in Hong Kong.
Those who violate national security law or challenge the leadership of the ruling Communist Party are not patriots, he said.