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China's parliament approves Hong Kong electoral system reform plan, says senior politician

China's parliament approves Hong Kong electoral system reform plan, says senior politician

Pedestrians walk past water-filled barriers, as Chinese and Hong Kong flags are seen in the background, outside the Legislative Council Complex in Hong Kong on Tuesday, Mar 30, 2021. (Photo: Reuters/Lam Yik

BEIJING: Beijing approved a sweeping overhaul of Hong Kong's electoral system on Tuesday (Mar 30), a senior politician who works with China's parliament on matters relating to the former British colony's mini-constitution, told Reuters.

The measures are part of Beijing's efforts to consolidate its increasingly authoritarian grip over the global financial hub following the imposition of a national security law in June, which critics see as a tool to crush dissent.

Maria Tam said Hong Kong's Election Committee, in charge of selecting the city's chief executive, will pick 40 representatives of the city's legislature as part of the reforms approved by the National People's Congress Standing Committee.

The number of directly elected representatives to the city's legislature will fall to 20 from 35 as part of the reforms, Tam added. The size of the legislature will increase to 90 from 70 currently.

Beijing will also increase the size of the Election Committee from 1,200 to 1,500, as part of the restructuring.

Chinese authorities have said the shake-up is aimed at getting rid of "loopholes and deficiencies" that threatened national security during unrest in 2019 and to ensure that only "patriots" run the city.

The measures are the most significant overhaul of Hong Kong's political structure since it returned to Chinese rule in 1997 and alter the size and composition of the legislature and electoral committee in favour of pro-Beijing figures.

READ: Concerns mount that new Hong Kong law on patriotic oaths could trap judges

READ: China approves plan to veto Hong Kong election candidates

"COMBINATION OF PUNCHES"

Earlier this month, Zhang Xiaoming of the Hong Kong and Macau Affairs Office said that China's plans for electoral reform in Hong Kong, coupled with the imposition of a national security law, amounted to a "combination of punches" to quell unrest in the southern city.

The Chinese government has cracked down on the opposition since the law came into effect last year, arresting dozens of activists and smothering the street movement.

China's parliament also voted for the power to veto candidates.

The reform plans were pilloried by the United States, the European Union and the United Kingdom, Hong Kong's former colonial ruler which handed control of the territory to Beijing in 1997 under a special "one country, two systems" arrangement.

Source: AGENCIES/kg

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