HONG KONG: Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam said on Tuesday (Mar 30) the government expects to hold Legislative Council elections in December, more than a year after they were postponed due to COVID-19.
Lam was speaking at a press conference after China finalised a sweeping overhaul of Hong Kong's electoral system, drastically curbing democratic representation in the city as authorities seek to ensure "patriots" rule the global financial hub.
Maria Tam, a senior politician who works with China's parliament on Hong Kong matters, said the city's Election Committee, in charge of selecting the city's chief executive, will pick 40 representatives of the city's legislature.
The number of directly elected representatives to the city's legislature will fall to 20 from 35 as part of the reforms approved by the National People's Congress Standing Committee, 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.
Last July, Lam announced that elections for the city legislature would be postponed due to a spike in coronavirus cases. The new date was initially set for Sep 5, 2021.
She said in July that the decision was the hardest choice she had made, but added it was aimed at safeguarding people's health and that the decision was supported by the central government.
Her announcement last year came after 12 pro-democracy candidates were disqualified from running for perceived subversive intentions and opposition to a sweeping new security law imposed by Beijing.
Lam said she had to invoke an emergency law to make the postponement and no political considerations were involved. Electoral rules in Hong Kong only allow votes to be postponed for 14 days, but colonial-era laws give the government broad powers in case of threats to public safety.