Hong Kong’s reorganized electoral system will give Beijing loyalists a free pass in joining a crucial body tasked with vetting future election hopefuls, the latest reform plans of the government shows.
City officials on Thursday admitted that some 200 members and deputies of the mainland-based National People’s Congress and Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference would have more clout than anyone else in landing a seat on the revamped Election Committee.
The committee, to be expanded from 1,200 to 1,500 people, will be empowered to veto anyone vying for legislative seats or the chief executive role in Hong Kong under Beijing’s reforms for the city, as election aspirants are required to seek nominations from it.
Representatives to the NPC and CPPCC are already set to form a large bloc in a new fifth sector of the committee. According to Hong Kong’s permanent secretary for constitutional and mainland affairs Roy Tang, they can also freely choose to represent the other sectors, which are formed by other interest groups, and their choices will reign in forming those sectors.
Tang was explaining the upcoming reforms to lawmakers during a legislative session on Thursday.
He used the example of a local employers’ group that had 15 committee seats, saying that if two members of the NPC or CPPCC opted for the same subsector, they would effectively take away two seats from the group.
That means all of the 200-odd Beijing-affiliated loyalists at the NPC and CPPCC, respectively China’s infamous rubber-stamp parliament and the Communist Party-led think tank, are all but guaranteed seats on the vital committee.
Late last month, the NPC unanimously approved the reforms of Hong Kong’s electoral system, which drastically reduced the representation of directly elected lawmakers and the likelihood of pro-democracy activists running for office.
Some critics have suggested that the new Legislative Council will virtually be handpicked by Beijing, but officials insist the reforms will ensure “patriots rule Hong Kong” and be in the best interest of the city in the long run.
The government will table legislative bills at LegCo next week to implement the electoral reforms, Chief Executive Carrie Lam has said. Those bills are likely to be passed next month by the now pro-Beijing LegCo, according to Secretary for Constitutional and Mainland Affairs Erick Tsang.
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