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Further Erosion of Democracy in Hong Kong

Hong Kong Legislative Council passed the electoral system amendment bill by 40 yes, and 2 no votes. (File)

Hong Kong’s legislature passed new legislation overhauling Hong Kong’s electoral system, giving Beijing greater control over Hong Kong.

Further Erosion of Democracy in Hong Kong
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Hong Kong’s legislature passed new legislation overhauling Hong Kong’s electoral system, giving Beijing greater control over Hong Kong.

The number of seats in Hong Kong’s legislature will be expanded to 90, with 40 of them elected by a largely pro-Beijing committee. The number of legislators elected directly by Hong Kong voters will be cut to 20, from the previous 35. In addition, Hong Kong’s national security apparatus will now conduct background checks of political candidates to ensure that they are sufficiently “patriotic,” meaning sufficiently pro-Beijing.

The new so-called “reforms” were passed overwhelmingly by a legislature that is virtually without opposition lawmakers, since the vast majority resigned in protest last year when four of their members were expelled for insufficient loyalty to Beijing.

The new legislation is the latest in a series of measures imposed over the past several years that are shrinking the freedoms guaranteed to the people of Hong Kong under the Basic Law and the Sino-British Joint Declaration, which enshrine the “one country, two systems” principle. Since 2019, thousands of pro-democracy activists and demonstrators have been arrested on charges of endangering national security.

In a statement, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken deplored the Chinese government’s continuing erosion of the democratic institutions of Hong Kong, “denying Hong Kong residents the rights that the People’s Republic of China (PRC) itself guaranteed. The Hong Kong Legislative council (LegCo) passage on May 27 of new measures that alter the composition of the LegCo and election Commission,” he said, “severely constrains people in Hong Kong from meaningfully participating in their own governance and having their voices heard.”

Secretary Blinken noted that the new legislation “defies the Basic Law’s acknowledgement that the ultimate objective is the election of all members of the LegCo by universal suffrage.”

“We again call on the PRC and the Hong Kong authorities to allow the voices of all Hong Kongers to be heard,” Secretary Blinken declared. “We also call on these authorities to release and drop charges against all individuals charged under the National Security Law and other laws merely for standing for election or for expressing dissenting views. The United States stands united with our allies and partners in speaking out for the human rights and fundamental freedoms guaranteed to the people in Hong Kong by the Sino-British Joint Declaration and the Basic Law.”