A Chinese official hit back at US criticism of planned changes to Hong Kong’s electoral law on Friday, pointing to the chaos surrounding the recent US presidential election.
Semi-autonomous Hong Kong is an internal Chinese problem that no foreign country has the right to interfere with, said Zhang Xiaoming, deputy director of the Hong Kong and Macao Affairs Bureau of the State Council.
“I don’t know that after the storming of the United States Capitol on January 6, how the United States has such moral capital to point the finger at Hong Kong’s electoral institutions,” he said.
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A statement by US Secretary of State Antony Blinken condemned what he called “China’s continued assault on Hong Kong’s democratic institutions.” It followed Thursday’s approval by the official Chinese legislature of a plan to increase Beijing’s control over how the Hong Kong legislature is chosen.
The changes would give a largely pro-Beijing electoral committee the responsibility of appointing all members of the Hong Kong legislature and directly electing certain lawmakers to ensure that Hong Kong is run by “patriots” and exclude the forces. ” anti-Chinese “to play key roles in governance.
The 1,500-member Election Committee will choose the territory’s chief executive and an unspecified “relatively large” number of its 90 seats. The revision has raised concerns about the reduction in the proportion of directly elected lawmakers.
Pro-government groups, including the political organization Friends of Hong Kong, have set up stands across the city to collect signatures in support of the changes. Nearly 200,000 residents have signed up to date, according to signforhk2021.com.
“These actions deprive Hong Kong people of a voice in their own governance by limiting political participation, reducing democratic representation and stifling political debate,” Blinken said.
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Zhang likened the changes to Hong Kong’s electoral system to “minimally invasive surgery” that will restore the city’s “democratic system” to health.
“The distinguishing features of minimally invasive surgery are small injuries, deep penetration and faster recovery,” he said, adding that Hong Kong residents will be able to live and work more peacefully.
Zhang also said that the electoral changes are not intended to exclude the pro-democracy Hong Kong camp from the governance structure, as anti-Chinese forces cannot be equated with the opposition.
“The opposition, especially the pan-democrats, also have patriots, and they can still stand for election and be elected according to law in the future,” he said.
Zhang’s comments come even as 47 pro-democracy activists and former lawmakers were indicted in court on subversion last week over their involvement in an unofficial primary election that officials said was part of a plot to cripple the Hong Kong government.
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Most of Hong Kong’s prominent democracy advocates are currently in prison or in self-exile. Of the 47, only five were released on bail.
On Friday, 21 activists who were denied bail last week appeared in court for a bail review.
The court rejected 11 bail requests, including those from former lawmakers Claudia Mo and Leung Kwok-hung. The other 10 defendants withdrew their claims. They will remain in detention.
For former lawmaker Emily Lau, a member of the Hong Kong Democratic Party, Zhang’s words are hardly reassuring that any semblance of democracy can still be maintained.
“I consider myself a patriot,” Lau said. “But our concern is that many people from my party and the pro-democracy camp may be excluded.”
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She said that even after lawmakers are elected, there is still ongoing oversight throughout their service, as they can still be removed from their seats if deemed insufficiently patriotic.
“I don’t know what their definition of patriotism is, and that’s what’s worrying,” she said. “Once this (electoral system) is in place, you will lose the trust of the people, and that is bad for any government.”
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