Fri, 23 Apr 2021

Hong Kong chief executive Carrie Lam says the city's postponed legislative elections could be delayed even further due to changes to its electoral system planned by China.

China's national legislature, the National People's Congress, is expected to approve a number of changes to Hong Kong's electoral process during its current annual session.

Among the expected changes are granting more voting power to pro-Beijing members of Hong Kong's 1,200-member electoral commission that selects Hong Kong's chief executive. The changes would strip the voting rights of several lower level district councilors, many of whom are pro-democracy supporters.

The proposed reforms would ensure the Hong Kong legislature is filled strictly with "patriots," a term used by last month by Xia Baolong, the director of the Hong Kong and Macao Affairs Office of the State Council.

Hong Kong was scheduled to hold elections to the Legislative Council last September, but the government postponed them for a year citing the COVID-19 pandemic.

"I cannot tell you at this point whether we need to further defer the election," Lam told reporters Monday after returning from the annual National People's Congress meetings in the Chinese capital.

The Asian financial hub was rocked by massive and often violent anti-government protests in the last half of 2019, initially triggered by a controversial extradition bill that evolved into a greater demand for greater freedoms for the semi-autonomous city.

The demonstrations spurred Beijing to impose a new national security law last year under which anyone in Hong Kong believed to be carrying out terrorism, separatism, subversion of state power or collusion with foreign forces could be tried and face life in prison if convicted.

The new law has led to the arrests and detention of dozens of pro-democracy politicians and activists, as well as the disqualification of over a dozen pro-democracy lawmakers, raising fears that Beijing is rejecting the "one country, two systems" concept under which Hong Kong was promised a greater number of civil liberties than the mainland when it was transferred from British to Chinese control in 1997.

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