HONG KONG – Hong Kong’s legislature on Thursday resumed a debate to change electoral laws that would drastically reduce the public’s ability to vote for lawmakers and increase the number of pro-Beijing lawmakers making decisions for the city.
Once approved, the amendments mean the city’s national security department will check the backgrounds of potential candidates for public office and a new committee will be set up to ensure those candidates are patriotic.
The number of seats in Hong Kong's legislature will be expanded to 90, with 40 of them elected by a largely pro-Beijing election committee. The number of legislators elected directly by Hong Kong voters will be cut to 20, from the previous 35.
Debate is scheduled before the legislature votes on the bill, but little to no opposition is expected.
Lawmakers began debating the bill on Wednesday and it is expected to pass Thursday.
The body's members are largely pro-Beijing after opposition lawmakers resigned en masse last year in protest over the ousting of four deemed to be insufficiently loyal to Beijing.
The changes to Hong Kong's elections come as Beijing further tightens control over the semi-autonomous city that saw months of anti-government protest and political strife in 2019.
Authorities have arrested and charged most of the city’s outspoken pro-democracy advocates, such as Joshua Wong, who was a student leader of 2014 protests, as well as media tycoon Jimmy Lai, who founded the Apple Daily newspaper.
China’s rubber-stamp parliament in March endorsed changes to the city’s electoral system, which then led to Hong Kong's proposals.
They are the latest in a string of moves to ensure people elected to office or serving the city are loyal to Beijing. An amendment the legislature approved earlier this month requiring the city’s over 400 district councilors — who mainly deal with municipal matters — to take an oath pledging their loyalty to Hong Kong and to upholding its mini-constitution.
The oath was previously required only of legislators and government officials such as the chief executive.