Sourced from the web by Tracy Cabrera
Only ‘patriots’ can stand in Hong Kong elections
Hong Kong chief executive Carrie Lam has warned that only ‘patriots’ can stand in the Chinese territory’s upcoming elections. File photo shows the Catholic leader during a press conference last March 30. (Photo courtesy by Agence France-Presse)
HONG KONG — Consolidating its grip on Hong Kong, Beijing has initiated rules that would curb democratic representation in the Chinese territory by approving an overhaul of its quasi-democracy to ensure only so-called ‘patriots’ get to be elected.
“Only ‘patriots’ can stand in Hong Kong elections,” Hong Kong chief executive Carrie Lam said as she decried the latest developments.
Resolutions that drastically curb democratic representation were endorsed unopposed by the National People’s Congress Standing Committee on March 30, while the next election, already delayed because of the pandemic, was rescheduled for December the current year.
This followed in the wake of last year’s passage in June of the national security law, widely seen by critics as a means of crushing dissent and effectively ending any vestiges of the promises guaranteeing self-rule for 50 years made before Hong Kong’s 1997 handover from Britain to China.
The Communist People’s Party’s mouthpiece Xinhua announced that under Chinese new laws governing future polls, the number of directly elected representatives in Hong Kong will fall from 35 to 20 and the size of the legislature will increase to 90 seats from 70.
An election committee responsible for selecting the chief executive will likewise have its numbers increased to 1,500 members from 1,200.
Meanwhile, the 117 community-level district councilors in the election committee will be scrapped along with the six district council seats in the Legislative Council (LegCo).
Hong Kong’s district councils were the only fully democratic institution that remained and in the 2019 elections, almost 90 percent of the 452 district seats were won by pro-democrats—to Beijing’s disbelief.
Importantly, a powerful new vetting committee will ensure candidates picked for public office are loyal to Beijing, a quality demanded by the CPP in the wake of the protests in 2019 when some activists demanded independence for the financial hub. The committee will be backed by national security authorities.
Hong Kong and Macao Affairs Office of the State Council chair Xiao Baolong has earlier warned that people who violate the national security law or challenge the leadership of the ruling CCP, will be ostracized as they are not patriots.
The Democratic Party said it was “very strange” for an administrative branch to be given the power to decide who can or cannot stand for office in a legislative election.
In reaction, Lam said the new candidate eligibility review committee will consist of a small group of top government officials but declined to say who they were.
She sought to allay fears of pro-Beijing favoritism, saying the committee would not arbitrarily decide whether a candidate fulfills loyalty requirements by swearing allegiance to the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region or in upholding the Basic Law.
“These sort of worries are exaggerated,” she noted.
Soon after, LegCo president Andrew Leung announced that Hong Kong’s legislative elections would be postponed again, to December, allowing time for Beijing’s reforms to be introduced.
“Because the government has said it will submit an amendment bill to the LegCo in April, I have decided to add additional LegCo sessions in mid-April for the first reading, so the bill’s committee can do its work at full speed,” Leung disclosed.
“The sixth Legislative Council will extend until the end of the year. During this time—apart from processing relevant bills and amendments—there are many other economic, social, and budgeting items that need to be debated and voted on,” he clarified in conclusion. (AI/MTVN)