Hong Kong’s parliament has approved the most significant electoral change in a long time, designed to consolidate China’s authority over the metropolis.
In parliamentary elections in that metropolis, citizens will soon be allowed to directly elect only 20 parliamentarians, compared to 35 in the past. The number of parliamentary seats will be expanded from 70 to 90, 40 of which will be filled by a committee that also elects the head of government. Members of the Electoral Commission are elected on September 19, with parliamentary elections to follow three months later.
The law also creates a new body that scrutinizes candidates. Anyone who does not show enough patriotism for China will be banned.
The plans prepared in China were passed with 40 votes in favour and 2 against. The pro-Chinese government in Hong Kong has met little opposition in parliament over the past year after pro-democratic delegates resigned in protest.
The United States condemned the move as undermining Hong Kong’s democratic institutions, political stability and civil participation. Foreign Minister Antony Blinken called on the authorities in Hong Kong and Beijing to release people charged under a stringent security law and to drop the charges.
China argues that the electoral changes are designed to remove “loopholes and shortcomings” from the law. This should prevent protests like in 2019 and ensure that only “patriots” run the city of 7.5 million inhabitants.