Hong Kong passes sweeping pro-China election rules, reduces public's voting power
In a major move to strengthen Beijing's power over the autonomous city, Hong Kong's legislature authorised the most significant revamp of its political system in decades. On Thursday, Hong Kong's legislature passed the most significant reform of its political system in the quarter-century since British control, signalling Beijing's power over the autonomous city. The action was swiftly condemned by the US, which accused China of weakening Hong Kong's democratic institutions and warned that reducing citizens' election participation would not lead to long-term stability. The revisions will cut the share of seats filled by direct elections in the legislature from half to less than a quarter. Candidates will be vetted by a new authority, with any judged insufficiently loyal to China being barred from running. The legislation's 600 pages boil down to just a few words: patriots rule Hong Kong," said Peter Shiu, a pro-Beijing legislator. China announced the majority of the revisions in March, but Hong Kong authorities later added further specifics, including redrawing constituency borders and criminalising requests for votes to be left blank. With 40 votes in favour and two votes against, the bills were approved. Since last year, when China disqualified several pro-democracy MPs and others resigned in protest, the pro-Beijing leadership has faced no opposition in the legislature. The election shake-up, according to Chinese officials, is intended to eliminate "loopholes and flaws" that jeopardised national security during anti-government protests in 2019 and ensure that only "patriots" control the city. The legislature will grow from 70 seats to 90 members. The number of seats filled by direct election will drop from 35 to 20. An election commission, which is also in charge of selecting the chief executive, will fill forty seats.
The new screening committee, which has the ability to disqualify candidates, will liaise with national security officials to guarantee that those running are Beijing loyal.