China's top lawmaking body approves Hong Kong electoral revamp

BEIJING – China’s top lawmaking body on Tuesday (March 30) unanimously endorsed sweeping electoral reforms in Hong Kong, a member of the committee said.

“The meeting of the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress has just ended, and the amendments to Annexes 1 and 2 of the Basic Law were passed unanimously to warm applause,” the city’s sole representative Tam Yiu-chung told The Straits Times in a text message, referring to Hong Kong’s mini constitution.

Beijing has not immediately released details of the amendments but according to earlier proposed changes, this would mean expanding the committee that picks the city’s leader, as well as setting up a vetting committee that will decide whether potential office holders are sufficiently “patriotic”.

These changes will now be promulgated in Hong Kong – which means the rules will have to be adopted immediately, bypassing the local legislature.

The revamp is the latest in a series of moves in response to historic and at times violent protests that rocked the territory in 2019.

Last year, a sweeping national security law was implemented in a similar fashion, dealing a body blow to the city’s hopes for democracy.

The United States, Britain, Japan and the European Union have all condemned China’s moves, with the Biden administration this month tightening sanctions imposed last year by then-president Donald Trump against key officials.

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken has called the recent overhaul of the city’s electoral system a “direct attack” on the autonomy China promised to Hong Kong, while British Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab has said the “radical changes” constitute another breach of the 1984 Sino-British Joint Declaration that paved the way for the city’s return to Chinese rule in 1997.

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