Changes to Hong Kong’s electoral system imposed on the city by the ruling Chinese Communist Party (CCP) set the city’s political life back decades, in the pre-reform colonial era of the mid-20th century. century, analysts said Monday.
Rule changes mean opposition candidates are highly unlikely to be allowed to run, but even when candidates enter the race they will now be chosen by a small number of voters compared to the system previous, learned RFA.
The electoral committee, which was already mostly made up of members handpicked by the CPC, now also includes representatives from 28 industry and professional groups known as “functional constituencies,” and the electoral base for these seats has been reduced. about 97%.
According to provisional information on the Hong Kong government’s vote registration, the number of registered voters in constituencies that choose an electoral committee member has fallen by 90% since the last election, when the committee chose only the Director General.
Since the rule changes imposed by the CPC, the Committee has also been tasked with returning 40 members to the Legislative Council (LegCo).
In the only functional education constituency, the number of registered voters is only 1,700, compared to 80,000 at the previous session of the Committee.
Ivan Choy, senior lecturer in politics at the Chinese University of Hong Kong (CUHK), said that previously anyone in the education sector had the right to vote for members of the electoral commission. Now, however, only those “designated” by the authorities can vote in their functional constituency.
“Before, we would have over 200,000 people participating in these elections,” Choy said. “Some have said that this participation was insignificant, but now we don’t even have that.”
“I think voters will feel even further removed from the whole electoral process now, both for the CEO and for LegCo,” he said.
“No way to lose”
Choy said Beijing held the next election in December so there was basically “no way for him to lose.”
He said the CCP considers Hong Kong’s policy to be “more manageable” after the changes.
Chinese and Hong Kong officials have repeatedly said the electoral changes represented the “perfection” of the electoral system.
Chung Kim-wah, deputy director general of the Hong Kong Public Opinion Research Institute (PORI), confirmed Choy’s assessment, saying that democracy in Hong Kong has now regressed to the point where it was at mid-20th century.
“Personally, I don’t think we’re still where we were in the 1980s,” Chung said. “At the time, only the district council was elected, and then we had indirect elections of LegCo members in the mid-1980s.”
“What we have now is worse than what we had in the 1980s, with an electoral base even smaller than that of the city council elections in the 1950s,” he said.
The new electoral rules came into effect on March 31, 2021, and prompted the US State Department to say it was “deeply concerned” about the changes.
The comprehensive plans ensure that anyone running for the Hong Kong legislature is a staunch supporter of the CCP, with all candidates to be vetted by the National Security Police before they are allowed to run.
The new system requires election candidates to run a glove at several levels of pro-CPC committees before they can appear on a ballot.
However, the decisions of all of these committees will depend on the approval of the national security arm of the Hong Kong Police Force, according to details released by the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress (NPC).
There will be no right of appeal from decisions of the Candidate Eligibility Review Board or opinions issued by the National Security Police.
District councilors, the last hope of any pro-democracy representation in the city, have also been removed from the electoral committee which chooses who will occupy 40 of LegCo’s 90 seats and which also chooses the chief executive.
Elections to the Legislative Council (LegCo), which were previously scheduled for September 2020 and then postponed for a year, are now postponed to December 2021.
While 20 seats in a newly enlarged LegCo of 90 seats will still be allocated by geographic constituencies and popular ballot, voters can only choose from candidates pre-approved through the multi-level vetting process, ensuring politicians pro democracy and rights activists are unlikely to make the cut.
The remaining seats will be nominated or allocated by commerce, industry and special interest groups. As with geographic headquarters, all applicants must be pre-approved by the National Security Police.
The authorities are also required to take action against anyone who seeks to “undermine” the electoral system.
The State Department said in its 2020 Human Rights Report that the CCP had effectively “dismantled” the rights and freedoms promised in Hong Kong and “seriously compromised” the rights and freedoms of the seven million people. from the city.
Thousands of people are leaving Hong Kong
Thousands of people – many of them families with school-aged children – have lined up at Hong Kong International Airport to board flights to the UK ahead of a key deadline that expires on July 19, 2021 , which had allowed some three million British National Overseas Passport (BNO) holders to enter the country without a visa.
Many families told RFA upon leaving that their main motivation stemmed from the effect of a draconian national security law imposed on the city by the CCP from July 1, 2020 on their children’s education.
The Hong Kong American Chamber of Commerce (AmCham) on Monday warned of a deterioration in the business environment in the city.
“AmCham is well aware of an increasingly complicated geopolitical environment and its risks, especially those which have evolved in recent years,” the statement said.
He said the chamber had purchased a new site in downtown Hong Kong to “foster dialogue, enable businesses to network, share ideas and espouse the values of transparency, free movement of people. information, rule of law and good governance “.
AmCham President Tara Joseph said business is particularly concerned that Great Firewall-type internet censorship is underway for Hong Kong.
“One of the key attributes of Hong Kong is you can go to Google, you can go to Facebook and any other platform you want compared to what you can do in mainland China,” Joseph told Bloomberg. Television, in comments reported by government broadcaster RTHK. .
“So I think it’s important that the government recognize that, be open and say we’re going to maintain this free flow of information.”
Translated and edited by Luisetta Mudie.