China’s move has crushed Hong Kong’s dreams of democracy

‘Patriots’ need only apply as candidates for December’s elections will be vetted by a Beijing-imposed committee

A controversial “patriot” act has sounded the death knell of Hong Kong’s dreams of democracy.

Sweeping changes to the electoral system will dramatically cut the number of directly elected politicians to the local parliament as China’s ruling Communist Party tightens its grip on the city. Only “patriots” or CCP supporters will be allowed to stand for election after being vetted by a powerful Beijing-imposed committee.

“The National Security Committee and the National Security Police will provide reports on every single candidate to assist the vetting by the qualification review committee,” Tam Yiu-chung, Hong Kong’s only delegate on the National People’s Congress, China’s rubber-stamp parliament, told the AFP news agency.

Earlier this month, the NPC voted to approve the massive shake-up on how Hong Kong is run. On Tuesday, its Standing Committee signed off on law, driving a bulldozer through Hong Kong’s “One Country, Two Systems” model.”

“These actions deny Hong Kongers a voice in their own governance by limiting political participation, reducing democratic representation, and stifling political debate,” US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said in a statement before the changes were announced.

The facts:

  • Directly elected politicians will fall to 20 from 35.
  • The size of the Hong Kong parliament will rise to 90 members from 70.
  • The election committee to select the chief executive or head of Hong Kong’s administration will increase from 1,200 members to 1,500.
  • The representation of 117 community-level district councilors in the election committee will be scrapped.
  • The six district council seats in the Legislative Council or parliament will also disappear.
  • District councils are the city’s only fully democratic institution.
  • Nearly 90% of the 452 district seats are controlled by democratic parties after elections in 2019.
  • New Legislative Council elections are scheduled for December.

What was said: “I firmly believe that by improving the electoral system and implementing ‘patriots administering Hong Kong,’ the excessive politicization in society and the internal rift that has torn Hong Kong apart can be effectively mitigated,” Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam said in a statement on Tuesday.

Reaction to the news: “They [the Chinese government] want to increase the safety factor so that in the future, the democrats will get a very limited [number of] seats. If they are not liked by Beijing, they won’t even be able to run in the election,” Ivan Choy, of Chinese University of Hong Kong’s department of government and public administration, said as reported by the Reuters news agency.

Delve deeper: This is seen by Beijing as the final hammer blow in the destruction of Hong Kong’s pro-democracy movement. In 2019, at least one million people took to the streets against a proposed extradition law to mainland China during the summer of discontent.

People power: The bill was eventually scrapped. But by then, the demonstrations had morphed into a wider movement calling for greater democracy in the city. Beijing, in response, imposed a draconian National Security Law amid a surge of violent protests.

Separatists, damn separatists: Leading members of Hong Kong’s pro-democracy camp have been arrested and many are still in prison despite an international outcry. China branded them as “separatists” and quickly moved to stack the local government with Communist Party supporters while outlawing pro-democracy activists.

One Country, One System: The “One Country, Two Systems” model was drawn up by Beijing and London before the United Kingdom handed over Hong Kong in 1997. It was devised to give the city greater autonomy to elect legislators with different viewpoints. That has now been effectively destroyed.

China Factor comment: We said on March 8 that Beijing was planning to sweep away the last vestiges of dissent and pack the legislative with pro-Beijing sympathizers. That is exactly what has happened. Democracy is now dead in Hong Kong, proving yet again that Beijing’s promises are like Moon Cakes, they tend to crumble after a single bite.