China's parliament is ready this week to pass a draconian new Hong Kong election law that will sharply reduce the proportion of democratically elected lawmakers and consolidate President Xi Jinping's grip on the territory.
The measure will effectively end decades of democratic development. in Hong Kong and comes less than a year after the National People & # 39 ;s Congress introduced a national security law in the city, in which dozens of pro-democracy activists have been charged with undermining and other crimes against the state that can be punished with long prison sentences. The NPC began its annual session in Beijing on Friday and will formally unveil the new election law when it ends on Thursday.
Half of Hong Kong's 70-seat Legislative Council is directly elected by geographic constituencies. The rest are elected by industry sectors whose representatives overwhelmingly support Beijing. The formula has helped ensure that candidates for democracy, who routinely capture 60 percent of the referendum, generally have no more than 40 percent of the chamber.
But Chinese officials believe that further guarantees are needed to ensure that only people in Beijing who describe themselves as "patriots" govern the Hong Kong government, legislature and judiciary after pro-democracy protests and insurgency shook the territory in 2019. "The protests went too far," said a member of Hong Kong's pro-Beijing establishment. . "Hong Kong lost China's trust."
According to people who were informed about the NPC's considerations, the new election law will expand the legislature to 90 seats, with as few as 20 percent elected through direct elections.
Wang Chen, an NPC deputy leader, has also confirmed that anyone hoping to stand for election to a legislative seat must be nominated by the overwhelming pro-Beijing "election committee" that elects Hong Kong's chief executive. The committee, Wang added, would also elect "a relatively large proportion" of representatives in the enlarged legislature.
"This will give Beijing even more control," said Simon Cartledge, author of a book on the territory's political system. . "But I do not see what it does to address the issue of governance at the heart of Hong Kong's problems – that an irresponsible government is struggling to come up with answers to meet Hong Kong's needs."
Under the "one country, two systems" formula designed to guarantee Hong Kong's autonomy in all matters except defense and foreign affairs, the Chinese government committed itself to "gradual and orderly progress" toward direct elections for all legislative seats as well as
Leung Chun-ying, Hong Kong's CEO from 2012 to 2017, told local media over the weekend that Beijing had decided "enough is enough" but would still be willing to go against universal suffrage "Finally" under the new law. "The revision of Hong Kong's electoral system can reassure the central government and all our compatriots," said Leung. in the territory "reflects Xi's tough line over regions where the Chinese Communist Party still does not have total dominance."
Xi spoke to NPC delegates from Inner Mongolia over the weekend, citing Beijing directives to prioritize Mandarin Chinese over Mongolian language, following instructions, which sparked widespread protests last year by the region's ethnic Mongolians.