China sharply reduces directly elected Hong Kong legislature seats

Hong Kong Legislative Council. (Photo courtesy: Kelly Ho/HKFP.)

(, Mar30’21) – China has sharply reduced the number of directly elected seats in Hong Kong’s legislature, delivering a sharp blow to the so-called special administrative region’s already beleaguered democracy movement. The percentage of directly elected seats has been reduced from 50% to just 22%. 

The changes were announced Mar 30 after a two-day meeting of China’s top legislature, reported the AP Mar 30. China imposed a national security law on Hong Kong last year and is following up this year with a revamp of the island’s electoral process.

China has expanded Hong Kong’s legislature to 90 seats, with only 20 to be elected by the public. Currently, half of the 70-seat legislature — 35 seats — are directly elected.

In the current 70-member legislature, voters elect half the members while the other half are chosen by constituencies representing various professions and interest groups. The latter are pro-Beijing groups, ensuring that section a majority in the legislature.

In the new legislature, only 20 will be elected members while 30 will be chosen by the constituencies and the remaining 40 by an Election Committee, which also has and will continue to choose the city’s leader.

The report said that the committee, which will be expanded from 1,200 to 1,500 members, was dominated by supporters of the central government in Beijing.

The election law mandates that the 20 directly elected members must be Beijing-complaint like the rest. For this purpose, a separate committee will be established to review the qualifications of candidates for office in Hong Kong to ensure the city is governed by “patriots,” in the language of the central government, the report noted.

To the political opposition in Hong Kong, which has advocated for more democracy, not less, the changes are part of a broader effort to keep them out of office.

The move was stated to be part of a two-phase effort to reign in political protest and opposition in Hong Kong, which is part of China but was promised a more liberal political system as a former British colony.

China’s top legislature, the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress, amended Hong Kong’s constitution to pave the way for the changes. The Hong Kong government is now tasked with revising its electoral laws and holding an election, the report noted.

Earlier, in mid-March, the full National People’s Congress rubber-stamped a proposal that authorized the Standing Committee to amend the Basic Law, the constitution that has governed Hong Kong since the former British colony was handed over to China in 1997.


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