Beijing's proposed major overhaul of Hong Kong's electoral system has been broadly slammed in the West as but the final cementing of the mainland's grip over what was set-up since the late 90's to function as a semi-autonomous city-state according to the "one country, two systems" agreement made with the UK. Following on heels of last year's draconian and far-reaching national security law which has been used to effectively crush dissent and arrest literally hundreds of pro-democracy activists - many of them also having fled to outside countries - multiple Communist Party officials addressing this weekend's National People's Congress (NPC) assembly in Beijing have warned the West not to interfere.
Former governor of Hong Kong Lord Chris Patten was cited in BBC as saying that China's Communist Party had "taken the biggest step so far to obliterate Hong Kong's freedoms and aspirations for greater democracy under the rule of law". However, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi in an annual speech touted that "Hong Kong’s shift from chaos to stability fully serves the interests of all parties. It will provide stronger guarantees for safeguarding Hong Kong citizens’ rights and foreign investors’ lawful interests."
And pro-Beijing Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam is "fully welcoming" the China-proposed major changes to the electoral system which will increase the mainland's influence. "There are loopholes in the electoral systems, there are also flaws in the systems in Hong Kong," Lam told reporters on Monday, according to The Associated Press.
"I fully understand that this is not a matter that can be addressed entirely by the government. I’m glad that the central authorities have, again, exercised its constitutional powers to help address this problem for Hong Kong," she said.
The statement comes days after State Department spokesman Ned Price lambasted the changes as constituting "a direct attack on Hong Kong’s autonomy, Hong Kong’s freedoms, and the democratic processes, limiting participation, reducing democratic representation, and stifling political debate in order to defy the clear will of the people of Hong Kong and to deny their voice in their own government and governance."
The AP provides a summary of the overhaul and how it will impact candidate "vetting" and voting as follows:
Chinese authorities have said the draft decision before China’s National People’s Congress would mean the largely pro-Beijing committee that elects Hong Kong’s leader would also choose a large part of the legislature to ensure the city is run by "patriots." The Election Committee would also have the right to vet candidates for the Legislative Council, weeding out any people suspected of being insufficiently loyal to China and the ruling Communist Party.
Currently, half of Hong Kong’s legislature is directly elected by voters, although the mass resignation of opposition legislators to protest the expulsion of four of their colleagues for being "unpatriotic" means the body is now entirely controlled by Beijing loyalists.
At other steps of the process too Beijing will further be able to examine whether lawmakers are sufficiently pro-mainland.
Lam it should be recalled is the Hong Kong leader whose 2019 proposal to extradite criminal suspects to China sparked many months of fierce anti-China protests that often involved violent clashes with police and the shutting down of who central sections of the city.
This led to the sweeping national security law last June which has since resulted in the arrest and sentencing of over 100 protesters. The law enables authorities to easily deem activism and free speech as possible 'terrorist activity' if an individual is deemed conspiring with foreign powers or issuing anti-China propaganda and rhetoric. Lately even school textbooks have been purged to only allow for pro-mainland and pro-Communist 'education'.