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Xi finalizes electoral changes in Hong Kong, strengthening control of Beijing

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China has finalized a broad plan to ensure that Beijing’s leaders control the outcome of the Hong Kong election, a move that could deepen already strained relations with Western countries.

President Xi Jinping on Tuesday signed orders to amend Hong Kong’s Basic Law, the state-run Xinhua News Agency reported, after revisions were passed by the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress. This decision provides more details on changes approved by the Chinese legislature on March 12 that called for a “review committee” to verify the qualifications of candidates for elections to ensure that they are all patriots loyal to the Communist Party. in Beijing.

Chinese lawmakers plan to put fewer than 10 people – all chosen by national security officials – on a committee to review all candidates for elected positions in Hong Kong, the South China Morning Post reported. Other changes include increasing the number of seats in the Legislative Council 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 Elections Committee the ability to appoint 40 of the city’s legislators, the SCMP. reported.

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“This will effectively prevent people who disturb Hong Kong from entering the Election Committee and Legislative Council through elections,” said Tam Yiu-chung, Hong Kong’s sole representative on the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress. , to SCMP. “This will ensure that we elect people who genuinely stand up for the ‘one country, two systems’ principle, and are able to serve society and citizens, not those who cause trouble.”

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These measures are the latest in China’s efforts to ensure that pro-democracy voices do not have a chance to gain power in Hong Kong following historic and sometimes violent protests in 2019. The call Xi for “patriots” to rule the former British colony has castrated the country’s democratic institutions while local authorities are pursuing activists who have expressed opposition to the Communist Party.

The United States, the United Kingdom, Japan and the European Union have all condemned the measures taken by China, with the Biden administration this month stepping up sanctions imposed by Donald Trump last year. US Secretary of State Antony Blinken called the city’s recent overhaul of the city’s electoral system a “direct attack” on the autonomy promised by China in Hong Kong, while British Foreign Minister Dominic Raab declared that the “radical changes” were another violation of the Sino of 1984. -British joint statement which paved the way for the transfer to China in 1997.

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China has rejected Western criticism and stepped up its opposition to any organization seen as “interfering” in its “internal affairs.” Last week, the Communist Party backed boycott calls by retailers such as Sweden’s Hennes & Mauritz AB for expressing concern over reports of forced labor in the far western region of Xinjiang.

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The entire pro-democracy bloc of the Legislative Council resigned en masse last year in protest against efforts to curb dissent, and dozens of former lawmakers and senior protest leaders have been jailed on charges national security.

In a regular briefing on Tuesday, Hong Kong chief executive Carrie Lam defended the changes without adding details, saying opposition candidates can still run as long as they are patriotic.

“People who have different political convictions, who are more inclined to democracy or who are more conservative, who belong to the left or belong to the right, as long as they meet this very basic and fundamental requirement, I do not see not why they couldn’t run for office, ”Lam said.

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The changes Beijing approved also widened the electoral committee that chooses the chief executive to 1,500 people from 1,200 previously, while eliminating the body’s 117 seats previously allocated to district councilors, the SCMP said. Pro-democracy politicians had taken control of these local bodies following a landslide victory in local elections at the end of 2019 that would have given the opposition influence over the selection of the city’s leader.

Once the details of Hong Kong’s electoral changes are clear, the local government will need to enact more than 20 laws to pass them, according to Lam. This should be completed by the end of May, Tam told local media in mid-March.

The Hong Kong government will focus on economic development and tackle housing issues once the overhaul is complete, according to Zhang Xiaoming, a senior Hong Kong affairs official in Beijing.

PHOTO GALLERY (CLICK TO ENLARGE)

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