China has proposed changes to Hong Kong’s electoral system

The Hong Kong flag was flown from a ferry boat on July 2, 1997, a day after the former British colony returned to Chinese rule.

Romeo Gakad | AFP | Getty Images

Beijing on Friday proposed changes to “improve” Hong Kong’s electoral system – a widely anticipated move by China tightening its grip on the semi-autonomous region.

Prior to the announcement of the proposal, Chinese Premier Li Keqiang said at the start of China’s annual “two-session” parliamentary session that the country would be firmly defended against “external forces interference” in the city.

The proposed changes adjust the size, composition and composition of Hong Kong’s election committee, which selects the city leader or chief executive, state media Xinhua said.

Beijing also wants to expand the committee’s work to include selecting a “relatively large share” of Hong Kong’s legislature, and appointing candidates for the body, Xinhua said.

Last week, some media outlets reported that a possible change in Hong Kong’s electoral system would control Hong Kong’s pro-democracy politicians.

Hong Kong is a former British colony that returned to Chinese rule in 1997. The city is governed under the principle of “one country, two systems” which gives it more freedom than other mainland Chinese cities, including the limited right to vote.

Beijing has been criticized internationally by countries including the United States and the UK – under the “one country, two systems” framework, for undermining Hong Kong’s autonomy.

The proposed changes to Hong Kong’s electoral system came almost a year after Beijing bypassed city law to create a controversial national security law.

There were pro-democracy demonstrations in the city for months after the law was enacted which sometimes turned violent. Chinese officials and state media have repeatedly blamed “external forces” for Hong Kong’s protests.

Wang Chen, vice chairman of the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress, said on Friday that “riots and unrest” in Hong Kong lead to “obvious loopholes and flaws” in the electoral system, Xinhua reported.

The National People’s Congress is China’s top legislature.

Chen added that change must be brought so that, according to the report, Hong Kong is governed only by “patriots”.