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Thursday, February 2, 2023

Hong Kong: Why the Legco elections are so controversial

Hong Kong is holding its first legislative council election since China introduced sweeping changes that have altered the city’s political landscape.

The government says the revamped electoral system will ensure only “patriots” will be allowed to stand for election and eventually hold positions of political power.

However, critics say it has weakened the city’s democratic voice, eradicating whatever opposition is left.

How is Hong Kong run?

Hong Kong used to be under British control, but was handed back to China in 1997 under a “one country, two systems” principle.

This means that the city has certain democratic freedoms which no other part of mainland China has.

This includes the right to elect its own mini-parliament, the Legislative Council (LegCo).

The LegCo is a powerful body that not only makes and amends Hong Kong’s laws, but also approves budgets and taxes, endorses the appointments of top judges, and can impeach Hong Kong’s head of government, the Chief Executive.

Its members usually serve four year terms – though the current term has been extended as elections were postponed by a year due to Covid.

They were previously elected by the public in various geographical constituencies, as well as interest groups.

What has China done?

In March, Beijing passed a “patriots governing Hong Kong” resolution that fundamentally altered LegCo.

The most important change was that it drastically shrank the proportion of lawmakers who can be directly voted in by the people – from 50% to 22%.

All candidates must now be vetted by a separate screening committee – which has made it easier to bar anyone deemed as being critical of Beijing.

The ruling also expanded and gave more powers to the Election Committee – a separate group that heavily skews pro-Beijing. Usually their main role is to choose the Chief Executive, but now, for the first time in years, they also have seats in LegCo.

The move is a continuation of China’s plan to tighten control over Hong Kong and push for loyalty from all levels of power, following 2019’s huge pro-democracy protests.

Beijing has also put in place a controversial national security law which has made it easier to punish pro-democracy demonstrators, while Hong Kong authorities have jailed dozens of activists in recent months.

What has China done?

In March, Beijing passed a “patriots governing Hong Kong” resolution that fundamentally altered LegCo.

The most important change was that it drastically shrank the proportion of lawmakers who can be directly voted in by the people – from 50% to 22%.

All candidates must now be vetted by a separate screening committee – which has made it easier to bar anyone deemed as being critical of Beijing.

The ruling also expanded and gave more powers to the Election Committee – a separate group that heavily skews pro-Beijing. Usually their main role is to choose the Chief Executive, but now, for the first time in years, they also have seats in LegCo.

The move is a continuation of China’s plan to tighten control over Hong Kong and push for loyalty from all levels of power, following 2019’s huge pro-democracy protests.

Beijing has also put in place a controversial national security law which has made it easier to punish pro-democracy demonstrators, while Hong Kong authorities have jailed dozens of activists in recent months.

Source: BBC

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