Patriots’ only: China moves to overhaul Hong Kong elections

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Legislative election to be delayed and rules changed in moves likely to further marginalise pro-democracy legislators.

Hong Kong is set for more political upheaval as China’s National People’s Congress (NPC) considers a proposal to overhaul the territory’s electoral system to ensure “patriots” are in charge, at its week-long annual meeting that began on Friday.

Ahead of the meeting, Zhang Yesui, a spokesman for the NPC, stressed that the rubber-stamp body had the constitutional power to “improve” Hong Kong’s system and that the electoral structure needed to fully implement the principle of “patriots governing Hong Kong”.

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Hong Kong’s Cable TV and Now TV, citing unnamed sources, said the changes would include increasing the size of the election committee that selects Hong Kong’s leader from 1,200 to 1,500 people, and the city’s legislature from 70 to 90 seats.

District councillors would also be removed from the committee that chooses the chief executive, while a new body would be set up under the chief executive to vet all candidates for elected office, according to Al Jazeera’s Katrina Yu who is monitoring events in Beijing.

Local media reported the already-delayed legislative council elections would be deferred for another year until September 2022.

Chinese President Xi Jinping arrives for the opening session of the NPC on Friday. Hong Kong;s electoral system will be discussed [Carlos Garcia Rawlins/Reuters]
NPC spokesman Zhang Yesui told journalists ‘improvements’ were necessary to Hong Kong’s electoral system to ensure ‘patriots’ were in charge [Yew Lun Tian/Reuters]

Opening the NPC on Friday, Chinese Premier Li Keqiang said Beijing would “resolutely guard against and deter” interference by external forces in Hong Kong’s affairs.

READ ALSO: Expulsion Of Hong Kong Lawmakers ‘Right Medicine’ For Normal Operation: China

“China has received a lot of international criticism over the past year due to its reforms in Hong Kong,” Yu said. “And China hasn’t responded with any concessions. It’s responded by doubling down and hardening its stance.”

A spokesman for the Hong Kong government said any changes to the rules governing elections were the “prerogative” of Beijing.

“Only through ‘patriots governing Hong Kong’ can the Central Government’s overall jurisdiction over the HKSAR be effectively implemented, the constitutional order as set out by the Constitution and the Basic Law be effectively safeguarded and the long-term stability and safety of Hong Kong be achieved,” the spokesman said in a statement released late on Thursday night.

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