China further restricts democracy in Hong Kong | Free press

Beijing (AP) – China has tightened control of Hong Kong. At the end of its annual meeting, the People’s Congress in Beijing approved an electoral change that will further curtail already limited democracy in China’s Special Administrative Region.

The nearly 3,000 delegates in the Great Hall of the People also approved the new five-year plan, which aims to make China more technologically and economically independent from the rest of the world.

The government wants to stimulate domestic demand and invest more in research and development. This is to reduce dependence on foreign countries. According to Prime Minister Li Keqiang, China is catching up a lot and wants to stimulate innovation. The strategy is also in response to supply chain disruption caused by US sanctions against Chinese technology companies and the global recession triggered by the corona pandemic.

The People’s Congress almost unanimously approved the electoral reform for Hong Kong. Critics see another blow to the liberal system of the former British crown colony. The action met with outrage in Hong Kong and abroad, especially under the former colonial power of Britain. “This is Beijing’s latest move to make room for democratic debates in Hong Kong – contrary to China’s promises,” said Foreign Minister Dominic Raab. It undermines confidence that China will honor its commitments as a leading member of the world community.

The prime minister defended the “improvements” to the electoral system to ensure that Hong Kong was “ruled by patriots.” Following the decision, the committee for the election of the head of government of Hong Kong will be expanded from 1,200 to 1,500 members. In the selection of members, the already dominant pro-Beijing camp will gain even more influence, while opposition forces will be pushed back.

A newly established “Assessment Committee” will also in future assess candidates for both the Election Committee and the Hong Kong Parliament. This attitude test is about whether they are also “patriotic”. Critics see this as practically a right of veto when the candidates are listed. Because, from Beijing’s point of view, “patriots” are only candidates who also follow the line of the Communist Party.

It is the second time in nine months that Beijing has tightened its reins in the face of protests and calls for more democracy in Hong Kong. In July, an equally harshly criticized security law entered into force in Hong Kong, which has since been used to take legal action against democratic activists. It targets activities that Beijing considers subversive, separatist, terrorist or conspiratorial.

While Hong Kong’s fate overshadowed the meeting, the not freely elected parliament eventually approved the government’s economic policies, as expected. Prime Minister Li Keqiang expects growth of “more than six percent” this year – after 2.3 percent in the previous year.

China is benefiting from the fact that it has largely controlled the coronavirus since the summer. Beijing follows a “zero covid strategy”: it uses strict measures such as curfew, quarantine, mass testing, contact tracking and extensive access restrictions.

Given the economic recovery, the prime minister also did not rule out faster growth, but warned against turbulence. “We must avoid wild fluctuations in economic development,” Li Keqiang told the press after the conference. Too fast growth is not sustainable, the government leader told forecasts such as the International Monetary Fund (IMF), which expects 8.1 percent in the second-largest economy.

Boosting domestic demand in China would also create opportunities for foreign companies, Li Keqiang said. He promoted China’s new two-cycle strategy. This promotes domestic demand as the “internal circulation”, while the external cycle with the rest of the world should only have a supportive effect. Li Keqiang was clearly keen to reject the growing concern that China is trying to disconnect itself in its pursuit of greater independence from abroad. “Closing the gate to the world will lead nowhere,” insisted the prime minister.

Related Articles

Back to top button