LegCo approves Beijing’s 'patriotic' election reform
Hong Kong’s parliament voted 40 to 2 in favour of the changes. Pro-democracy members were absent. Now lawmakers will be picked by the pro-Beijing Election Committee and police will vet would-be candidates. The 4 June memorial vigil for Tiananmen victims has been banned.
Hong Kong (AsiaNews) – Hong Kong’s Legislative Council (LegCo) approved Beijing’s election reform for the autonomous region.
The changes to Hong Kong’s Basic Law, which were approved by China’s National People’s Congress on 11 March, were passed by a margin of 40 to 2 with no abstentions.
Pro-democracy opposition LegCo members did not take part in the vote because they resigned en masse last November after four anti-establishment members were expelled.
With the new election rules, China and Hong Kong want to make it easier to elect “patriotic” candidates.
According to most independent observers, the term “patriotic” is a euphemism for openly pro-Beijing and anti-democracy lawmakers.
The reform increases the number of LegCo members from 70 to 90, but reduces directly elected seats from 35 to 20, which pro-democracy parties usually won.
Another 30 seats will be filled by members chosen by functional constituencies (industry, trade unions, professions), which are dominated by pro-Beijing groups. The remaining 40 will be picked by the pro-Beijing Election Committee, which also chooses the chief executive.
The Election Committee will also swell, from 1,200 to 1,500, with delegates from the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference and groups that "love Hong Kong and China”.
Would-be candidates for directly elected seats will also have to undergo a vetting process involving the police and the Committee for Safeguarding National Security (chaired by the chief executive) and will have to show their loyalty to the authorities, the Basic Law and the national security legislation.
A committee yet to be set up will decide whether to hand over candidates’ applications to the Election Committee, which will have the final say. The review process is not subject to judicial challenges by excluded candidates seeking to overturn the committee’s decisions.
Last but not least, the reform makes it a criminal offence to "encourage" others to boycott the election or spoil their ballot. Violators risk up to three years in prison.
The next elections is scheduled for 19 December.
The pro-Beijing camp is happy about the changes to the election process, which essentially ends the pro-democracy camp’s stonewalling in the LegCo.
As if the reform wasn’t enough, the government opposition suffered another blow. The Hong Kong Alliance in Support of Patriotic Democratic Movements of China reported that the police banned the traditional vigil it holds every year on 4 June to remember the victims of the Tiananmen Square massacre.
Like last year, the authorities justified the ban with the need to comply with COVID-19 regulations.