- The overhaul will require thorough vetting of Hong Kong officials at every government level.
- The country wants to install loyalist “patriots” in leadership roles.
- China has, in recent years, cracked down on Hong Kong’s pro-democracy movement.
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China announced on Friday that it plans to overhaul Hong Kong’s electoral system, handing control to loyalist “patriots” friendly to Beijing.
The statement was made during the National People’s Conference, the annual parliamentary meeting that draws thousands of lawmakers from across China.
NPC Vice-Chairman Wang Chen has yet to announce an official plan, but said the country must be governed by leaders who offer “sincere support for the motherland to resume its sovereignty over Hong Kong,” Xinhua News Agency, a partially state-owned Chinese media network, reported.
Chen went on to claim that the pro-democracy movement in Hong Kong was backed by “foreign forces” that have “blatantly supported and encouraged anti-Chinese sentiments in Hong Kong while providing them with an umbrella of protection.”
According to The New York Times, the overhaul will require more thorough vetting of Hong Kong officials at every government level, all the way down to local neighborhood representatives.
“Hong Kong has reached a critical point, where an electoral overhaul is essential.” Tung Chee-hwa, the former first Chief Executive of Hong Kong, told Chinese outlet Sohu.com:
“It must be noted that in recent years, anti-Chinese forces and local radical separatist forces have used the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region legislative council to openly advocate for ‘Hong Kong independence’ and other such propositions,” Chen said.
The announcement throws into question the timeline for Hong Kong’s upcoming elections, set to be held this September.
The overhaul is the latest in a series of moves from China meant to exact tighter control over the former British colony.
In 2019, protests broke out against a proposed bill that would allow China to extradite Hong Kong residents to the mainland.
Five days ago, China arrested more than four dozen influential pro-democracy activists under the new legislation, charging them with “conspiracy to commit subversion.”
China’s new laws have effectively ended Hong Kong’s status as a semi-autonomous country, previously referred to as “one country, two systems.”
Ronny Tong, the leader of Path of Democracy, a moderate political group and think tank, told The Times: “If we go too far, we risk becoming a one-party legislature, which I don’t want to see. That is not in line with the spirit of ‘one country, two systems,’ and I have warned anyone willing to listen to exercise restraint.”
Hong Kong officials, Tong said, can only “wait and see.”