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Hong Kong leader: City government 'fully welcomes' electoral changes

Hong Kong leader: City government 'fully welcomes' electoral changes

Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam is defending proposed changes to its electoral system that increase China's control, saying city officials “fully welcome” them.

“There are loopholes in the electoral systems, there are also flaws in the systems in Hong Kong,” Lam said at a news conference on Monday, according to The Associated Press. “I fully understand that this is not a matter that can be addressed entirely by the government. I’m glad that the central authorities have, again, exercised its constitutional powers to help address this problem for Hong Kong.”

The proposal, set for a vote in the Chinese National People’s Congress, would allow the committee responsible for naming the chief executive a greater say in naming lawmakers for the city as well, the AP reported. The committee, which is predominantly pro-Beijing, would also have the power to determine whether candidates are sufficiently pro-government.

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Half of Hong Kong lawmakers are currently directly elected, but opposition legislators resigned en masse last November in protest after four lawmakers were expelled on charges of being “unpatriotic,” the news service noted.

State Department spokesman Ned Price said Friday that the changes "are a direct attack on Hong Kong’s autonomy, Hong Kong’s freedoms, and the democratic processes, limiting participation, reducing democratic representation, and stifling political debate in order to defy the clear will of the people of Hong Kong and to deny their voice in their own government and governance."

Activists in Hong Kong have spent years warning of encroachment on the city’s semi-autonomous government by China. In 2019, Lam proposed a law that would allow some criminal suspects to be extradited to China, prompting months of protests. Demonstrators continued protesting and calling for her resignation even after Lam withdrew the measure.

More recently, about 100 people have been charged under a national security law passed last June that international critics have said essentially undoes Hong Kong's autonomy from China.