China approves overhaul of Hong Kong’s political system: Reports | Civil Rights News
Sweeping changes are the most far-reaching since the territory was returned to Chinese rule in 1997.
China has approved a sweeping and controversial overhaul to Hong Kong’s political system that will cut the number of directly elected seats in the territory’s mini-parliament and create a vetting committee to approve candidates for office.
The Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress (NPC), the top decision-making body of the mainland’s rubber-stamp parliament, approved the changes 167 – 0, the South China Morning Post newspaper and other Hong Kong media reported on Tuesday, citing comments from Tam Yiu-chung, the committee’s only representative from the territory.
The 167 members of the committee gave themselves a “huge round of applause” after their vote, broadcaster RTHK reported Tam as saying.
China announced the proposals at the NPC meeting in March, arguing that the changes were necessary “improve” the electoral system and ensure only “patriots” were able to govern Hong Kong.
Under the plan the number of directly elected seats in the Legislative Council (LegCo) will drop to 20 in an expanded legislature of 90 members, while 30 seats will be reserved for “functional constituencies” representing various industries.
The Election Committee that currently chooses Hong Kong’s leader will choose 40 representatives, the paper said, adding that the committee would no longer include district councillors.
Previously, half the members in the 70-seat LegCo were directly elected by the public.
A new committee will also be established to vet all candidates for the territory’s most important elections. It will have fewer than 10 members, and be chosen by two groups overseeing national security – the Committee for Safeguarding National Security under Hong Kong’s chief executive and Beijing’s national security office in Hong Kong, it added.
Elections to the territory’s Legislative Council were due to take place last September but the government delayed the poll because of the coronavirus pandemic.
When China took back control of Hong Kong from the United Kingdom in 1997, it promised to maintain the territory’s way of life and its democratic freedoms for at least 50 years under the “one country, two systems” framework.
In 2019, mass opposition to a law that would have allowed suspects to be sent for trial in mainland China evolved into months-long protests for democracy that sometimes turned violent.
In November of that year, in district council elections that were a chief test of the political mood in the territory, Hong Kong’s pro-democracy candidates swept the board.