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Deputies at the NPC passed the proposal with 2,895 votes for, none against and one abstaining.. Read more at straitstimes.com.

Mar 11, 2021

BEIJING – Chinese lawmakers on Thursday (March 11) voted nearly unanimously to change Hong Kong’s electoral system in yet another move demonstrating Beijing’s tightening control over the city.
Deputies at the National Peoples Congress (NPC) passed the proposal with 2,895 votes for, none against and one abstaining and broke into nearly a minute of sustained applause at the Great Hall of The People when the votes were announced. 
A new Candidate Qualification Review Committee will be set up to vet the eligibility of all those looking to run for office, while the Legislative Council (LegCo) and the Election Committee, a body responsible for picking the citys leader, will be expanded, according to the nine-point decision issued by the official Xinhua news agency. 
Three hundred members, expected to come from members of the NPC and the Chinese Peoples Political Consultative Conference the countrys top political advisory body will be added to the Election Committee, taking the total to 1,500, while LegCo will add 20 more seats to the current 70. 
The candidate review committee is expected to weed out potential candidates deemed not patriotic enough, likely to be pro-democracy politicians. 
This is to ensure those who love the country and Hong Kong rule Hong Kong, the document stated. 
All the representatives here highly agree to (these changes). It shows the firm will of the country, including those from Hong Kong, to protect our sovereignty, security, and development, and will to maintain order in Hong Kong, said NPC Standing Committee Chairman Li Zhanshu after the vote. 
Chief Executive Carrie Lam welcomed the proposed changes and expressed gratitude to Beijing for its support of Hong Kong. 
Hong Kong has faced unprecedented challenges over the past two years. It has become very clear that only by firmly upholding the One Country, Two Systems principle and safeguarding national security can society and the economy of (Hong Kong) progress and develop steadily, she said in a statement. 
Other officials in Hong Kong similarly expressed support in a flurry of statements containing similar wording to that used by Beijing. 
During his press conference wrapping up the parliamentary session, Chinese Premier Li Keqiang said the changes proposed were to fully and accurately implement the One Country, Two Systems principle by which Hong Kong is governed. 
Under the framework, which is supposed to be unchanged until 2047, the territory enjoys a high degree of autonomy, separate legislature and legal system, as well as liberties unseen in the mainland like the freedom of speech and the right to protest. 
But critics say those freedoms have been shrinking in recent years as Beijing increases its grip over the territory. 
The proposed electoral changes will be sent to the Basic Law Committee of the NPC, where the specific legislation will be drafted.
These changes are meant to “refine” the One Country, Two Systems framework by which Hong Kong is governed, officials have said, adding that it is necessary to plug “loopholes” in the electoral system.
It aims to reconfigure the 1,200-member electoral committee responsible for picking the Chief Executive. There are also plans to expand the committee’s powers, which is likely to have a greater role in vetting potential candidates for political office in the territory.
When tabling the draft to the NPC last week, NPC vice-chairman Zhang Chen said the aim was to create “democracy with Hong Kong characteristics”.
Coming less than a year after a sweeping national security law was tabled at the same session last year, this is yet another blow to the city’s hopes of democracy.
Since mass protests rocked the city in 2019 – sparked by the attempted introduction of a Bill allowing extradition to the mainland – Beijing has insisted that there are deficiencies in Hong Kong’s governance structure, and has imposed a series on changes to “correct the flaws”.
Dubbed “patriots governing Hong Kong”, the proposed electoral changes will require officeholders to be loyal to the Chinese Communist Party, a senior official said this week.
“When we talk about patriotism, we are not talking about the abstraction of loving a cultural or historical China, but rather loving the currently existing People’s Republic of China under the leadership of the Chinese Communist Party,” Mr Song Ru’an, deputy commissioner of China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Hong Kong, told reporters on Tuesday. “Patriots should respect the Chinese Communist Party.”
He added that the government will review “whether candidates meet that criteria”, but did not elaborate on which government he was referring to.
The term “patriots governing Hong Kong” was first coined by former paramount leader Deng Xiaoping in 1984 as a means of calming fears that the handover to China would strip the city of its lively political scene.
A patriot must accept that Hong Kong is part of China and support its future prosperity but do not have to be party loyalists, he said.
“Those who meet these requirements are patriots, whether they believe in capitalism or feudalism or even slavery,” Mr Deng said.
“We don’t demand that they be in favour of China’s socialist system; we ask only for them to love the motherland and Hong Kong.”
A stall where residents can sign in favour of changes to the local electoral system in Hong Kong. PHOTO: AFP
British foreign secretary Dominic Raab said on Thursday that the proposed changes to Hong Kongs electoral system would further undermine international trust in China.
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, Mr Raab said in a statement.
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.