Chinese NPC to take control of Hong Kong electoral system

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Sunday, March 7, 2021

The Chinese National People's Congress put forward plans on Friday that would mean electoral candidates from Hong Kong would have to be thoroughly vetted before being allowed to run. The plans ensure that only "patriots" to the People's Republic of China would be allowed to run. This comes after protests against the republic over the last two years, with 47 pro-democracy election candidates, activists, and campaigners remaining in jail on national security laws.

The National People's Congress chamber (pictured in 2015), where Li Keqiang delivered his work report speech.
Image: Dong Fang.

Premier Li Keqiang said he would "resolutely guard against and deter" interference from other countries during the annual work report. Li delivered a speech to about 3000 members of the congress. As a result, a draft decision was made, containing recommendations from Wang Chen, who is the vice chair of the standing committee of the NPC. It included modifications to the Hong Kong constitution, including granting a committee that currently elects the chief executive additional powers to "directly participate in the nomination of all legislative council members", and create "a qualification vetting system for the whole process".

Political scientist at the Chinese University of Hong Kong Willy Lam told Agence France-Presse the vetting committee proposed by the NPC would to disqualify any candidate from running for office who was seen as not being loyal to the Chinese Communist Party. After the plans were announced, Beijing's liaison office said "from all walks of life in Hong Kong have voiced their support" for the changes.

In last year's work report, national security laws were introduced that gave the Chinese government more powers to convict residents of Hong Kong and prevent them from running for office. On Thursday, 47 pro-democracy activists and potential election candidates were still being held after an informal "primary poll" they had carried out, which prosecutors said was designed to "overthrow" the government.

This comes after about a thousand protestors had gathered outside the Hong Kong court on Monday demanding the release of what they called "political prisoners", The Guardian reported. Those arrested were charged under the laws on Sunday. The Guardian said 32 were denied bail, in part because the national security laws make it difficult for those arrested to be given bail. Fifteen defendants were granted bail that prosecutors opposed.