China’s parliament to discuss Hong Kong electoral reform

BEIJING: China’s top legislature will discuss electoral reform in Hong Kong when it meets this week, state media said on Thursday (Mar 4), as speculation grows that Beijing will use the event to further tighten control over the financial hub.

Official news agency Xinhua said the National People’s Congress (NPC) would deliberate a draft decision on “improving the electoral system of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region”.

Chinese state media has run editorials in recent weeks saying “electoral loopholes” will be plugged, and officials have said only “staunch patriots” – those loyal to the ruling Communist Party – should be involved in governing Hong Kong.

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The city dominated headlines during last year’s NPC session when delegates endorsed a tough security law designed to stamp out dissent in the semi-autonomous trading hub after months of violent unrest in 2019.

The exact shape of any changes is unclear, but they could include removing some seats from local-level district councils.

Hong Kong’s lack of full democracy has been a regular source of political instability and public anger in the territory.

The city’s leader – the chief executive – is chosen by a 1,200-member committee that is deliberately stacked with Beijing loyalists.

Hong Kong’s 70-seat legislature is deliberately designed to return a government majority and only half of the seats are chosen by popular vote.

But opposition candidates scored a landslide win in district council elections in late 2019, in a clear popular rebuke to Beijing.

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The NPC’s roughly 3,000 members will fill Beijing’s cavernous Great Hall of the People for a week of meetings choreographed to tout the achievements and power of the party.

It is also an important occasion for the party to lay out priorities, economic expectations, and foreign policy for the coming year.

The session will open less than a week after dozens of activists were arrested for subversion in Hong Kong after organising a primary election that was intended to offer a united opposition to establishment parties.