June 24, 2022

Hong Kong to scrutinize political candidates’ backgrounds to ensure loyalty to China

HONG KONG – Candidates for public office in Hong Kong will have their entire history examined, its top justice official said on Saturday, after China announced a sweeping overhaul to ensure that only “patriots” rule the city.

Beijing on Tuesday imposed sweeping changes to Hong Kong’s electoral system, the latest step in an ongoing crackdown on the city’s democratic movement after massive and often violent protests.

The latest amendments to the Basic Law, Hong Kong’s mini-constitution, have ensured that a majority of lawmakers will be reliably selected by a pro-Beijing committee, and that each candidate will be vetted by national security officials.

Hong Kong Justice Secretary Teresa Cheng told public broadcaster RTHK that the committee would review “all documents related to the candidates,” including anything that is “believed to have affected their loyalty and allegiance.”

Cheng said there are no restrictions on what can be examined.

Former lawmaker Cyd Ho (left) and pro-democracy activist Lee Cheuk-yan (center) gesture as they leave West Kowloon courthouse in Hong Kong on April 1, 2021, after being convicted of organized an unauthorized rally on August 18, 2019 (ISAAC LAWRENCE / AFP)

“We can’t limit ourselves completely and say that we will only review things from the last three to five years, because we have to review everything in context… Maybe something he or she mentioned 10 years ago. years is related to what they said yesterday. “

Chinese leaders have taken decisive action to tighten their control over the international financial hub, dismantling Hong Kong’s limited democratic pillars after massive protests erupted in 2019.

They imposed a national security law last year that prohibited much dissent.

This file photo taken on Aug. 18, 2019 shows protesters rallying for a rally in Victoria Park in Hong Kong, in opposition to an extradition bill that had turned into a broader call for democratic rights in the semi-autonomous city (Manan VATSYAYANA / AFP)

Dozens of activists have since been prosecuted or jailed, stifling protests in a city that enjoyed more political freedoms than the authoritarian continent under the “One Country, Two Systems” agreement.

Chinese officials have trumpeted that the electoral reform was the second in a “combination of punches” to quell unrest, after the sweeping National Security Law.

When Hong Kong people are allowed to vote in limited local elections, they tend to vote overwhelmingly for pro-democracy candidates, which has rocked authoritarian Beijing.

Hong Kong Managing Director Carrie Lam speaks at a press conference at government headquarters in Hong Kong on March 30, 2021 (Anthony WALLACE / AFP)

Under the new measures, Hong Kong’s legislature will be reduced from 70 to 90 seats, but only 20 of them will now be directly elected, up from 35 previously.

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