NPC approves Hong Kong electoral reform

This is another blow for the pro-democracy opposition. Only one NPC delegate abstained while 2,895 voted in favour. The pro-Beijing Election Committee, which elects the chief executive, will appoint a certain number of members of Hong Kong’s Legislative Council. For Carrie Lam, the latter will not be hostage to politics anymore. The UK slams China for not fulfilling the commitments made in 1997.

Beijing (AsiaNews) – The National People's Congress (NPC) almost unanimously passed a resolution today paving the way for a thorough overhaul of Hong Kong’s election system.

For Chinese leaders, elections in the semi-autonomous city must be “democratic” but with local “characteristics”.

After the national security law was passed in June, critics say electoral reform is a new expedient to eliminate the pro-democracy opposition in the former British colony.

On the final day of the annual session of China’s parliament, 2,895 delegates voted in favour, no one against and only one abstention.

Together with the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference (CPCPC), which has already come out in favour of reform, the NPC is called upon to rubberstamp decisions already taken by President Xi Jinping and the other leaders of the Chinese Communist Party.

The details of the reform will be finalised by the NPC Standing Committee; this will involve changes to Hong Kong’s Basic Law, which came into effect when the territory returned to China in 1997.

The changes grant new powers to the Electoral Committee (already under Chinese control) which chooses Hong Kong’s chief executive (head of the administration).

Some 300 delegates from the NPC and CPCPC will be added to the committee, which will be expanded from 1,200 to 1,500 members. The Legislative Council (LegCo) will go from 70 members to 90.

The Committee will elect some LegCo members; the others will be chosen directly and indirectly from representatives of industry, labour and the professions.

The authorities will also set up a committee to scrutinise candidates for the Electoral Committee and LegCo in order to block candidates who are not considered 'patriotic', namely members of pro-democracy groups.

It is not yet clear whether district councillors (mostly pro-democracy) will be part of the enlarged Electoral Committee.

Some media claim that the 117 seats on the Election Committee elected by district councillors will be scrapped; others such as the state-run Xinhua news agency report that district organisations will still be represented, without specifying whether they will include district councils.

Quoted by the South China Morning Post, NPC Standing Committee Chairman Li Zhanshu said that the National Security and Electoral Reform laws are “two legal punches” to protect Hong Kong’s constitutional order after anti-government riots in 2019.

Hong Kong’s chief executive Carrie Lam thanked the NPC for the reform. According to Lam, with the changes that will be introduced, LegCo will no longer be hostage to politics.

Meanwhile, the United Kingdom reacted negatively. British Foreign Minister Dominic Raab said this morning that the changes to the election law are yet another step by mainland China to curb Hong Kong's democracy.

According to Raab, this is a violation of the commitments China made in 1997, which will further undermine the international community's trust in Chinese leaders.