Entertainment Only 'true patriots' need apply: Beijing's tough new laws turn Hong Kong's elections into selections

13:01  03 april  2021
13:01  03 april  2021 Source:   msn.com

Hong Kong: Beijing is working on a reform to better control the candidates for elections

 Hong Kong: Beijing is working on a reform to better control the candidates for elections © REUTERS - CARLOS GARCIA RAWLINS The National People's Assembly, meeting from March 5, 2021 for its first annual plenary session, is seized of a reform of the Hong Kong electoral system. The Chinese central government intends to impose on the former British colony the principle that one will have to be certified "patriot" to be able to play any political role. Details of future electoral reforms have appeared in the local press, even before being announced in Beijing.

China' s government has passed a new law that will drastically restrict the right of Hong Kongers to stand for election and reshape the city' s parliament, further entrenching Beijing ' s power over the supposedly semi-autonomous territory.

Fears that Hong Kong ' s "one country, two systems model" was being eroded led to huge pro-democracy protests in 2019. Some turned violent and Beijing imposed the National Security Law , which it said would target "sedition" and bring stability. Willie Lam, China analyst at the Chinese University of Hong Kong , told the AFP news agency that if the new NPC measures passed as he expected they would "effectively wipe out any remaining opposition". It' s kind of incredible that the Chinese government felt the need to change what was already an electoral system heavily rigged in

a group of people standing in front of a mirror posing for the camera: Pro-democracy activist Lee Cheuk-yan arrives at the West Kowloon Courts for verdicts in a landmark unlawful assembly case, in Hong Kong, China on Thursday. He was among seven veteran protesters found guilty of unauthorized assembly in August 2019, the latest blow to the city's beleaguered democracy movement. © Tyrone Siu/Reuters Pro-democracy activist Lee Cheuk-yan arrives at the West Kowloon Courts for verdicts in a landmark unlawful assembly case, in Hong Kong, China on Thursday. He was among seven veteran protesters found guilty of unauthorized assembly in August 2019, the latest blow to the city's beleaguered democracy movement.

They've seen it coming for months, perhaps years, but this week's official crackdown on democratic rights by China surprised even battle-weary veterans of Hong Kong's opposition movement.

Many have been thrown in jail, including seven who were convicted on Wednesday for organizing protests in 2019.

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BEIJING (Reuters) - "Loopholes" in Hong Kong ' s laws must be closed to ensure the city is governed by " patriots ", a top Beijing official said on Monday, signalling changes to the Chinese-ruled city' s electoral system, potentially as early as next month. " Patriots " included those who loved China, its constitution and the Communist Party and excluded anti-China "troublemakers", said Xia Baolong, director of the Hong Kong and Macao Affairs Office of the State Council, China' s cabinet.

The " patriots governing Hong Kong " resolution was passed at the National People' s Congress (NPC) on Thursday. It will reduce democratic representation and allow a pro- Beijing panel to vet and elect candidates. The former British colony was handed back to China in 1997 under a model called "one country, two systems". Under the deal, which gave the territory freedoms not available in mainland China, Hong Kong also had its own mini-constitution and an elected parliament. The latest Chinese move follows a series of measures that have tightened Beijing ' s grip on Hong Kong , including the

Others, such as former opposition lawmaker Nathan Law, were forced to flee. Officially a wanted man, the 27-year-old is still considered a threat by the territory's Beijing-backed government.

"All our freedoms faded [at] a drastic speed that none of us could have expected," Law said in a Skype interview with CBC News from London, where he now lives. He counted off the  rights lost on his fingers: "freedom of speech, of association and assembly, and now elections, all gone."

Beijing's new election rules give the central government sweeping powers to eliminate those considered disloyal and tip votes in the Chinese Communist Party's favour even before a single ballot is cast.

Fewer seats for democratically elected politicians

It's an effort for Hong Kong to "recover stability" and prevent the kind of popular demonstrations that swept the city in 2019, according to the territory's pro-Beijing leader, Carrie Lam.

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HONG KONG (AP) — China' s ceremonial legislature this week approved a resolution to alter Hong Kong ' s election law that many see as effectively ending the city' s already weakened local democracy. By a vote of 2,895-0, with one abstention, the National People’ s Congress voted to give a pro- Beijing committee The technicalities hardly matter, however, since Beijing has made it clear throughout the process that only true “ patriots " will be able to sit in the body, excluding government critics and anyone holding views that diverge significantly from the program laid out by Beijing . That will have a further

HONG KONG — In the run-up to local elections in Hong Kong on Sunday, Beijing and its allies in the city were portraying the vote as a way to hear the voice of a silent majority after nearly six months of increasingly violent antigovernment protests. Now, that majority has spoken — and it has come out overwhelmingly against Beijing and its allies. The protesters started campaigning in June against a now-withdrawn bill that would have allowed extraditions to mainland China. Their demands have since morphed into broader calls for expanded democracy and an investigation into alleged police brutality.

Those protests brought out as many as two million people from all walks of life — including some of the 300,000 Hong Kongers with Canadian citizenship. The demonstrations started out peacefully, though eventually there were smaller violent clashes between police and protesters. Any kind of political demonstration is now illegal.

"To really create full stability and safety, we also need to be safe in political systems as well as political power," Lam said at a news conference on Tuesday.

The new electoral system slashes democratic representation in Hong Kong's local legislature by sharply cutting the number and proportion of seats directly chosen by voters. It also gives greater power to appointed political bodies loyal to China's central government.

Even more restrictive, every aspiring candidate must be a "true patriot," investigated first by police officials answering to China and then vetted by a pro-Beijing review committee. Anyone the government dislikes can be barred from running without a reason, without any avenue for appeal.

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Beijing will establish a new security office in Hong Kong , with its own law enforcement personnel - neither of which would come under the local authority' s jurisdiction. This office can send some cases to be tried in mainland China - but Beijing has said it will only have that power over a "tiny number" of cases. The law will also apply to non-permanent residents and people "from outside [ Hong Kong ] who are not permanent residents of Hong Kong ". media captionThe history behind Hong Kong ' s identity crisis and protests - first broadcast November 2019.

HONG KONG — The Hong Kong government said on Friday that it would postpone the city’ s September legislative election by one year because of the coronavirus pandemic, a decision seen by the pro-democracy opposition as a brazen attempt to thwart its electoral momentum and avoid the defeat of pro- Beijing candidates. “It is a really tough decision to delay, but we want to ensure fairness, public safety and public health,” said Carrie Lam, Hong Kong ’ s chief executive. She cited the risk of infections, with as many as three million or more people expected to vote on the same day; the

Opposition in exile

Even under the old rules, officials found reasons to kick Law out of the legislature six years ago. He says no one in opposition would ever get close to earning a seat there now.

Law was accused of using the wrong intonation while taking his oath of office; some thought it sounded as though he was questioning Chinese sovereignty over Hong Kong.

Law slipped out of Hong Kong nine months ago, right after Beijing imposed a strict national security law on the territory at the end of June that makes it a crime to advocate secession from China or to carry out vaguely defined subversive or terrorist acts. The law has been used to target anyone who speaks out.

"With my backpack and small luggage in hand, I boarded my night flight," he tweeted at the time, keeping his plans secret "with my own well-being and others in mind." Law has since become a vocal advocate for Hong Kong, appearing in front of the U.S. Congress and meeting with European decision-makers.

"Hong Kong is a classic example of how democracy and freedom fade," Law said.

That fade started almost from the moment Hong Kong reverted to Chinese control in 1997. At the time, Beijing gave a written commitment that the former British colony could keep its democratic rights and a certain degree of autonomy for at least 50 years under a principle China calls "One Country, Two Systems."

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Quickly, however, a kind of creeping authoritarianism set in. Beijing started using Hong Kong's own respected court system to limit freedoms, sometimes on legal technicalities.

The latest electoral law changes, and the National Security Law last summer are the latest chapters.

"It's the culmination of that process," said Alvin Cheung, a Canadian born in Hong Kong who now lives in Kingston, Ont.

"The strategy of the Hong Kong and Beijing governments was systematically to whittle away at any form of meaningful civic and political participation."

Cheung, who teaches at New York University, said without strong support from the international community, the most the pro-democracy movement could have done is "delay the encroachment of Beijing into Hong Kong's autonomy."

'It's over. The people of Hong Kong lost'

Cheung says China was too powerful and too set on quashing dissent in Hong Kong. Beijing was enraged at the protests and furious after local elections in 2019, which saw opposition candidates sweep local votes and win 17 out of 18 seats up for grabs.

"Heaven and Earth have been turned upside down," one defeated pro-Beijing candidate said at the time.

That's when the Chinese central government stepped up its efforts, determined never to have its legitimacy challenged again in the semi-autonomous territory by "doing away with the gradual democratic process," said Ma Ngok, a political scientist at the Chinese University of Hong Kong.

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"This [new election law] is a little bit of overkill, but I do believe it shows that Beijing wants to make it absolutely sure," he said in a Skype interview from Hong Kong. "I think it is already very difficult for the opposition to find somebody to be willing to run, because it is a game you are not allowed to win."

Several former pro-democracy activists who are now too afraid to go on the record told CBC News they don't believe their movement can recover from China's repression.

"It's over. The people of Hong Kong lost," said one in a text message this week.

But other Hong Kongers say they don't believe the opposition movement — and the anger with China that led millions to protest and vote against Beijing's candidates — can be snuffed out by edict, no matter how draconian the legislation.

Kevin Chong is a Canadian writer, born in Hong Kong, who has written about anti-Chinese feelings in the territory.

He says the "anger, resistance and resentment toward Beijing" is too strong. "I feel as though we haven't seen the last gasps of the democracy movement," he said in an interview from Vancouver.

"There are so many young people who are inspiring in terms of how much they're willing to sacrifice in order to protect democracy and their democratic rights," he said. "Those people haven't had their hopes entirely snuffed out."

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