Chinese lawmakers back move to tighten grip on Hong Kong

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China’s National People’s Congress (NPC) on Thursday backed a move to further tighten Beijing’s grip over Hong Kong’s government amid widespread protests.

The measure, approved nearly unanimously in the ceremonial legislature, would hand power to a Chinese-controlled committee to select more of Hong Kong’s lawmakers, reducing the number of politicians who are elected by voters to the 90-seat legislature.

“The meeting has also passed a motion to overhaul Hong Kong’s … electoral system, which was passed almost unanimously. This has expressed the resolute determination of people around the country, including those from Hong Kong, to safeguard the country’s sovereignty and safe development, as well as Hong Kong’s constitutional order,” said Li Zhanshu, chair of the NPC Standing Committee.

While the NPC has no formal power, it is often used as a stage for the ruling Chinese Communist Party to highlight major policies. Chinese President Xi Jinping was reportedly seen sitting in the front row as votes were cast. 

Hong Kong has seen its autonomy gradually curtailed as Beijing responds to a broad protest movement across the island. 

Dozens of pro-democracy protesters and movement leaders have been detained as part of the clampdown, and media figures have said they’ve been pressured to toe Beijing’s line. 

The demonstrations began last year following the passage of a national security law in China allowing Beijing to operate its security services in the historically autonomous territory. The law details harsh punishments that can be handed down for vague crimes regarding secession, subversion and terrorist activities.

The repression on the island has sparked criticism from the U.S. and Europe. 

Secretary of State Antony Blinken told Congress Wednesday that the White House would “speak out and take action against egregious violations of democracy and human rights in Hong Kong.” 

Meanwhile, British Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab panned the new measure approved Thursday as harmful to the promises of autonomy it had granted the island when it was returned to China from the U.K. in 1997.

“This is the latest step by Beijing to hollow out the space for democratic debate in Hong Kong, contrary to the promises made by China itself,” Raab said in a statement. “This can only further undermine confidence and trust in China living up to its international responsibilities and legal obligations, as a leading member of the international community.”

Tags Antony Blinken Hong Kong national security law Politics of Hong Kong

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