The latest news out of Hong Kong isn’t good, though that’s nothing new these days. China has issued yet another mandate regarding elections in the city and they’re clearly not even trying to hide what they’re doing at this point. Under the current system, Hong Kong’s 70-person legislature is chosen under a hybrid system where 35 members are elected by the public and the other half are selected by an “election committee” composed of loyalists to Beijing. Following this mandate, the legislature will be significantly expanded, but even fewer seats will be decided via public elections. Anyone considering running for office on a pro-democracy platform is hearing a very unsubtle message from the Chinese Communist Party at this point. (Associated Press)
China has sharply reduced the number of directly elected seats in Hong Kong’s legislature in a setback for the territory’s democracy movement. The changes were announced Tuesday after a two-day meeting of China’s top legislature.
In the new make-up, the legislature will be expanded to 90 seats, and only 20 will be elected by the public. Currently, 35 seats, or half of the 70-seat legislature, are elected.
Of the other seats, 40 will be chosen by an election committee that currently selects Hong Kong’s leader. The remaining 30 will be picked by groups representing various professions and interests.
China enacted these changes by voting to change Hong Kong’s constitution. And no, the citizens of Hong Kong were not consulted on the matter nor were they allowed to vote for or against the changes. This was just an authoritarian mandate removing even more of what’s left of the Democratic process there.
Even the 20 seats that will be filled through open elections aren’t going untouched. The election committee I mentioned above is being given additional power to “review” any candidates looking to run for office and determine whether or not the individual is a “patriot.” It goes without saying that only those loyal to Chinese authority will be considered sufficiently patriotic to pass muster.
At this point, we just need to face the facts. The pro-democracy movement in Hong Kong is all but dead. Great Britain has generously offered to allow an unlimited number of people to emigrate and move there. Numerous democracy activists have already been locked up for committing thought crimes and that trend shows no signs of slowing down. The ones who are still able may want to consider Great Britain’s offer because Hong Kong is rapidly turning into a closed society, resembling mainland China far more than any sort of bastion of capitalism and freedom.
This is really a tragedy to watch. For a long time, Hong Kong was an economic hub in that region, where at least a limited amount of freedom and free enterprise was allowed. Now, communism is going to suck the life out of all that activity as it does wherever it takes root. The entire region will be the poorer for it.