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China finalized a sweeping plan to ensure leaders in Beijing control the outcome of Hong Kong’s elections, a move that could deepen already-fraught relations with Western nations.
President Xi Jinping on Tuesday signed orders to amend Hong Kong’s Basic Law, the official Xinhua News Agency reported, after revisions were passed by the National People’s Congress Standing Committee. The move provides more details on changes approved by China’s legislature on March 12 that called for a “review committee” to vet qualifications of election candidates to ensure they are all patriots loyal to the Communist Party in Beijing.
A Hong Kong national security committee will approve candidates for the city’s Legislative Council based on vetting by police officers in the national security division, Xinhua said, adding that there would be no legal review of the committee’s decisions.
Other changes include expanding the number of Legislative Council seats to 90 from 70, reducing the number of directly elected seats in the chamber to 20 from 35, and granting the city’s newly enlarged Election Committee the ability to appoint 40 of the city’s lawmakers, the South China Morning Post reported.
“It will effectively prevent those people who disrupt Hong Kong from entering the Election Committee and Legislative Council through elections,” Tam Yiu-chung, Hong Kong’s sole representative to the National People’s Congress Standing Committee, told the SCMP. “It will guarantee we elect people who genuinely defend the ‘one country, two systems’ principle, and are capable of serving the society and citizens, not those who stir up troubles.”
Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam and LegCo President Andrew Leung said postponed legislative elections will be held in December.
The moves are the latest in China’s efforts to ensure that pro-democracy voices don’t have a path to obtain power in Hong Kong following historic and sometimes-violent protests in 2019. Xi’s call for “patriots” to run the former British colony has neutered the country’s democratic institutions while local authorities prosecute activists who have voiced opposition to the Communist Party.