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Hong Kong changes law to slash directly elected council seats, undermining democratic challenges

Hong Kong changes law to slash directly elected council seats, undermining democratic challenges

HONG KONG – Hong Kong lawmakers on Thursday handed an modification to a regulation to eradicate most immediately elected seats on native district councils, the final main political consultant our bodies chosen by the general public, shutting down additional democratic challenges within the metropolis.

The modifications embrace slashing the proportion of immediately elected seats within the municipal-level group being from some 90% presently to simply about 20% — even decrease than the extent when these our bodies had been first arrange within the Eighties, when Hong Kong was dominated by Britain.

The remainder of the 470 seats can be stuffed by members appointed by the chief government, rural committee chairpersons and others elected by native committees which can be filled with pro-establishment figures.

All incoming councilors can be vetted by a committee to make sure “patriots” are administering Hong Kong. A efficiency monitoring mechanism can be launched for “sanctioning misconduct” of councilors.

The electoral overhaul displays Beijing’s growing management over Hong Kong following months of mass pro-democracy protests in 2019. In 2021, Hong Kong amended its electoral legal guidelines for its legislature, drastically lowering the general public’s capacity to vote and growing the variety of pro-Beijing lawmakers making choices for the town.

Analysts mentioned the newest amendments would marginalize public participation within the metropolis’s affairs, warning that the federal government might additional lose widespread assist.

Previously, elections for metropolis district council seats usually drew little worldwide consideration because the councilors primarily dealt with municipal issues, akin to organizing development initiatives and guaranteeing that public amenities are so as.

However the councils took on significance after the town’s pro-democracy camp gained a landslide victory within the final ballot on the peak of the anti-government protests in 2019. The camp then hailed its sturdy good points within the race as a “victory” for the Hong Kong folks.

Many professional-democracy district councilors resigned in 2021 after authorities launched an oath-taking requiring them to pledge allegiance to the town. Their mass resignations adopted media stories that councilors could should repay their wages if they’re later disqualified from workplace, which the federal government had not confirmed or denied on the time.

Critics regarded the requirement as a part of a broader crackdown on the pro-democracy motion after the enactment of the sweeping nationwide safety regulation in 2020.

The resignations and different disqualifications had left about one-third of the 479 councilors nonetheless working, the federal government mentioned.

The invoice handed Thursday unanimously by the town’s legislature, as most legislators are largely pro-Beijing. Many lawmakers, together with Regina Ip, voiced their disapproval over the performances of some pro-democracy councilors elected in 2019.

“The councils turned more and more radical and was a really massive resistance that obstructs the federal government’s work and lots of measures that purpose to enhance folks’s livelihood,” mentioned Ip, a number one member of the Govt Council, Hong Kong’s Cupboard.

However John Burns, an honorary professor of politics and public administration on the College of Hong Kong, mentioned the drastic lower within the variety of immediately elected seats would undermine a authorized and bonafide approach for the folks to speak with authority.

“Hong Kong has by no means been a democracy,” he mentioned. “The modifications do, nonetheless, roll again political participation, which might additional undermine Hong Kong folks’s assist for the federal government.”

Kenneth Chan, professor at Hong Kong Baptist College’s authorities and worldwide research division, mentioned the overhaul aimed to put in pro-government representatives by way of closely managed strategies.

“The district councils are anticipated to degenerate into echo chambers for the administration, and can now not function a key platform for democratic reforms on the grassroots stage,” Chan mentioned.

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