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China begins to legally crush Hong Kong’s pro-democracy movement

China begins to legally crush Hong Kong’s pro-democracy movement

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Virendra Pandit 

New Delhi: Twenty-four years after the British handed back Hong Kong to China in 1997, Beijing is reneging on its promise of allowing “One Country, Two Systems” to the world’s fifth-largest financial hub: on Tuesday, its top decision-making body in the parliament unanimously adopted a controversial plan to “reform” Hong Kong’s electoral system by a vote of 167-0.

The full details of the election “reform” law have not yet been made public. The bill has been directly imposed by Beijing, bypassing Hong Kong’s legislature, media reported.

According to reports, the new law is an attempt to abolish Hong Kong’s semi-autonomous status and fully merge it with the People’s Republic of China (PRC) like any other part of the country.

Despite the international opprobrium, that it earned for crushing the long resistance to increasing Chinese dominance in Hong Kong, Beijing’s sweeping bill has come as a rude shock to its political system since the territory returned from British control to Chinese rule in 1997 after a century.

According to the changes approved by the PRC’s National People’s Congress Standing Committee, the number of directly-elected representatives to Hong Kong’s legislature will be reduced from 35 to only 20, while the total size of the House would go up from 70 to 90 seats.

That means, only 20 representatives of Hong Kong will now be elected to the House, instead of 35 earlier, and the remaining 70 will be nominated by Beijing, instead of 35.

The plan also allows the PRC’s ruling Communist Party to appoint more of Hong Kong’s lawmakers, reducing the share elected by the public.

Moreover, any candidates intending to contest an election would first need to be vetted for political views, with police and the city’s new national security apparatus providing reports on candidates.

The number of election committee members will also rise five times, from 300 to 1,500. This body is responsible for choosing Hong Kong’s Chief Executive and many of the members of the legislative council (LegCo).

As the majority of legislative seats will now be ‘selected’ by pro-Beijing officials, the changes are expected to curb the power of the opposition.

The measures are seen as a bid to further erode Hong Kong’s autonomy and to crack down on the pro-democracy movement, which millions of protesters on the streets in 2019 and 2020.

China has consistently rejected the criticism, saying the election reform is necessary to assure the region’s stability. Officials say the overhaul seeks to get rid of “loopholes and deficiencies” and assure that Beijing loyalists are in control.

In the wake of the pro-democracy protests, Beijing pushed through a controversial national security law in June last year, which was used to prosecute or arrest campaigners.

 

 

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