China announced at its largest political meeting that it will revise Hong Kong’s electoral system to ensure that “patriots” are at the forefront, a sign that the government will no longer tolerate disagreement in the city.
The reform comes after hard work and tighter control of Hong Kong.
A draft resolution will be discussed during the National People’s Congress (NPC), which runs for a week.
Thousands of lawmakers gathered for the Beijing summit.
In addition to the Hong Kong decision. It is expected that the rubber-stamped parliament will also discuss and prove economic growth targets and environmental policies from the central government.
What do we know about the planned changes in Hong Kong?
NPC Vice President Wang Chen announced on Friday that several annexes to Hong Kong’s constitution – the city’s mini-constitution – would be revised.
These would mean a revision of the rules for the election of the CEO and the election to the Legislative Council.
Sir. Wang added that “loopholes” in Hong Kong’s electoral system had allowed opposition activists to advocate for the city’s independence.
He added that these “risks” should be removed, adding that a “democratic electoral system with Hong Kong characteristics” should be established.
The movement comes after the implementation of a national security law, which critics say is being used by Beijing to crush disagreement in the city, and a breakdown of activists and opposition figures.
A number of arrests have been made, and last week 47 pro-democracy activists were accused of “undermining” under the new law.
Hong Kong, a former British colony, is part of China, but has been governed by the principle of “one country, two systems”, meaning it has its own legal system and rights, including freedom of expression and freedom of the press.
But many in Hong Kong and rights groups have accused China of undermining these freedoms and autonomy in recent years. There were months of violent protests in 2019.
Prior to the NPC, various Hong Kong and Chinese officials had already brought up the idea of ”patriots” ruling Hong Kong.
The city has met with almost no opposition since all of the city’s pro-democracy lawmakers resigned last year.
But until recently, Hong Kong had a small opposition that achieved success in the local elections.
“In 2019, the Pan-Democrats did extremely well, which was alarming for the CCP because it showed that all their negative rhetoric did not seem to work,” Ian Chong, a professor of politics at the National University of Singore, told BBC News. .
“I think for the CCP (Chinese Communist Party) that they really want to remove the voices that they do not like to hear.”
What else did China announce on Friday in the NPC?
Prime Minister Li Keqiang said at the meeting that the country had set its economic growth target above 6%.
Beijing did not set an economic growth target last year – the first time it chose to do so – as it had to do with the economic downturn from the coronavirus pandemic.
Sir. Li also said that Beijing would implement climate control targets, adding that China would draw up an action plan to secure carbon emissions by 2030 in an effort to achieve China’s goal of being carbon neutral by 2060.
China has also promised to develop vaccines to cope with major infectious diseases, adding that it would “concentrate resources to prevent new infectious diseases,” he said.
What can we expect from the NPC in the coming days?
Congress will also formally prove the 14th Five-Year Plan announced at the end of last year.
China is the only major economy in the world to publish a five-year political plan, and it has been doing so since 1953.
It will also be a proponent of the “dual circulation model”, in which China will encourage domestic consumption (or “internal circulation”), while accommodating export markets abroad (or “external circulation”).
Benjamin Hillman, a professor at the Australian National University, told the BBC that such goals were partly driven by concerns that the US could restrict China’s access to advanced technologies, such as semiconductors.
Such actions, he said, “could bring companies like Huawei to its knees and limit future economic growth as well as the strength of Chinese industry.”
According to Prof Chong, “China’s success in dealing with Covid” is also likely to be largely in this year’s NPC.
The pandemic is largely under control in China, and for most people, life has returned to normal. China was the only major economy in the world to create growth last year.
“Next year is where President Xi Jinping should have reached his time limit, so I think he’s likely to really burn his credentials … I think a lot of that will highlight successes under Mr. Xi.”
China deterred the president’s borders in 2018, allowing Mr Xi to remain outside his two terms.
President Xi is also likely to highlight China’s performance in “eradicating absolute poverty” – something the country announced just last week.
“Xi had promised that China would become a ‘moderately prosperous society’ by 2021,” Professor Hillman said.
“He will no doubt declare success in the NPC.”
What is NPC?
The meeting typically takes place in early March with almost 3,000 delegates from across the country – representing provinces, autonomous regions and the special administrative regions of Hong Kong and Macau.
While the NPC is in theory the country’s most powerful institution, in reality it is largely regarded as a parliamentary stamp proving plans and policies decided in advance by the central government.
The NPC meeting runs in parallel with the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC), a meeting of the most powerful political advisory body in the country.
It started already on Thursday, and collectively the collections are referred to as the “two sessions”.
Reporting by Yvette Tan