BEIJING – When Beijing last summer began cracking down on resistance to its rule in Hong Kong, it imposed a national security law that enabled authorities to arrest dozens of democracy advocates and caused chaos in the city.
Now, less than a year later, China wants nothing less than a drastic overhaul of its usually controversial city policies.
Zhang Yesui, a senior Communist Party official, announced Thursday that China’s national legislature is planning to rewrite Hong Kong’s election rules to ensure that the region is run by the patriots, whom Beijing considers people loyal to the national government and the Communist Party.
Mr. Zhang did not disclose details of the proposal. But Lau Seo Kai, the chief advisor to the Chinese leadership on Hong Kong policy, said the new approach is likely to call for the creation of a government agency to screen every candidate running not only for the CEO position but also for the legislature and more. Office levels, including neighborhood representatives.
The strategy appears to be designed to increase the concentration of power in the hands of Communist Party proxies in Hong Kong and undermine the political hopes of the opposition already trapped in the territory for years to come.
It also appears to put an end to the dream of full and open elections that have been nurtured by millions of Hong Kong residents in the years since Britain returned the region to Chinese rule in 1997. True universal suffrage – the right to direct elections – was one of the main demands of protesters during the 2019 demonstrations that swept the city. Which exceeds a population of 7 million people over a period of months.
Mr. Zhang, a spokesman for the Chinese National Legislature, the National People’s Congress, noted that the political turmoil in recent years has created the need to change the electoral system of the province to ensure the system of “patriots who govern Hong Kong.”
He defended Beijing’s right to bypass local officials in Hong Kong in enacting such legislation, just as the central government did in imposing the National Security Act in June. The conference will discuss a draft plan to make changes to the electoral system when it meets for a week beginning on Friday.
The electoral restrictions are likely to further stifle the opposition, which has been arrested and detained since Beijing imposed the Security Act in June. On Sunday, in the strongest use of the Security Act yet, police charged 47 leading advocates of democracy in Hong Kong. Plotting to commit sabotage After they organized primaries in July.
He was a proponent of democracy He hopes to win a majority in the local legislature In the elections last September, then withhold government budgets, a move that could force Carrie Lam, the leader of Hong Kong, to resign. Government later Postpone those elections. But city prosecutors said the activists’ strategy to try to fire the CEO amounted to interfering with government jobs, a crime under the Security Law.
Opposition politicians have defended their tactics as legitimate and commonplace in democracies and say they are fighting only to preserve the city’s relative independence, promised under a policy known as “one country, two systems”.
But some of Beijing’s most powerful allies in the city have accused the broader pro-democracy camp of endangering Hong Kong’s future by testing the limits of the Chinese government and forgetting that the city was not an independent country.
“We are not another Singapore,” Leung Chunying, the former chief executive of Hong Kong, said in a statement. “In Hong Kong, by squeezing the democracy envelope too far, and trying to get rid of Beijing’s authority, for example appointing the CEO, many of the so-called Democrats have, in effect, become separatists.”
Ronnie Tong, a former pro-democracy lawmaker who now serves in the cabinet and chief executive of Hong Kong, said he hopes Beijing will not make it impossible for opposition figures to run for office.
He said, “If I exaggerate it, which is something I do not want to see, then we will become a one-party legislative body.” “This will not be in line with the spirit of one country, two systems, and therefore I have warned against restraint for those who wish to listen.”
However, he acknowledged that Hong Kong officials do not have much of a role to play. “We just have to wait and see.”
The report by Keith Bradsher from Beijing and Austin is symbolic from Hong Kong. Vivian Wang | Contributed to reporting from Hong Kong.