Hong Kong: China passes ‘patriotic’ plan to vet election candidates

China’s legislature has approved a resolution to make sweeping changes to Hong Kong’s electoral system.

The measures were passed with 2,985 votes in favour, and zero against, in China’s National People’s Congress (NPC). There was one abstention.

A “candidate qualification review committee” will be established to vet candidates for election to Hong Kong’s parliament, the Legislative Council said.

Chinese officials have said that the changes will ensure “patriots” are in control of Hong Kong.

Critics say that the move will further undermine the principle of “one country, two systems” – the constitutional arrangement where Hong Kong has a different governmental and legal system to mainland China.

One of the Hong Kong delegates to the NPC, Bernard Chan, who is also the convenor of the nation’s Executive Council, which advises the region’s leader Carrie Lam, told Sky News: “I think that now the Chinese government decided it’s time to remind us that two systems exist under one country and you need to be a patriot.

“I think it’s for that reason they kept referring to patriot, to serving the city. I think it’s rather normal, in every country, that you should abide by your own constitution.

“You have to respect that the Chinese Communist Party is the ruling party – it’s in the constitution [of China], you have to respect that. It doesn’t mean that you cannot criticise them.”

But mainland Chinese officials seem to have a broader definition of “respect”.

At a news briefing on Tuesday, Yang Xiaoguang, a minister at the Chinese embassy in London, told Sky News that those who have “attacked the central government” or “badmouthed or spread pessimism about China and Hong Kong” are “absolutely not patriots”.

Kenneth Chan, a former member of Hong Kong’s parliament and a professor of politics at Hong Kong Baptist University, condemned the measures.

“People in HK are not used to this idea of respect. Leaders are supposed to be held accountable by the people, subject to checks and balances,” he told Sky News. “Respect is to be earned by those who claim leadership, not an entitlement.

“The Chinese Communist Party is not known to be respecting dissidents and people who happen to disagree with the leaders’ views and actions.”

Professor Chan said that that electoral reform represented the “premature termination of one country two systems as Beijing asserts its so-called comprehensive jurisdiction over the territory”.

He added: “Hong Kong’s autonomy is no longer guaranteed by the basic law or the joint declaration. Rule by men and rule by fear have overtaken the rule of law traditions.”

Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab said: “This is the latest step by Beijing to hollow out the space for democratic debate in Hong Kong, contrary to the promises made by China itself.

“This can only further undermine confidence and trust in China living up to its international responsibilities and legal obligations, as a leading member of the international community.”

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