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The proportion of directly elected council members in Hong Kong has been reduced.

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The proportion of directly elected council members in Hong Kong has been reduced.
The proportion of directly elected council members in Hong Kong has been reduced.

In the city of Hong Kong, according to a report from Reuters, On Thursday, the legislature of Hong Kong unanimously voted to implement significant changes to district-level elections. These changes involve a substantial reduction in the number of directly elected seats. Critics argue that this move will further diminish democratic freedoms within the city under Chinese rule.

According to the amendment, the number of seats directly elected by the public would decrease from 452 to 88. This change occurred after the democracy camp won significantly in the 2019 election.

The total seating capacity would be decreased from 479 to 470. The scheduling of the next election has not yet been determined.

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The proposed amendment is expected to significantly impact the remaining democratic opposition in the former British colony. This region has already experienced the implementation of a national security law by China in 2020, resulting in the apprehension of former lawmakers and district councilors and the dissolution of multiple political parties.

To participate in the upcoming election, candidates must undergo a comprehensive national security background check and obtain a minimum of three nominations from various committees. This stringent process effectively restricts the eligibility of many democracy advocates from running for office.

According to Lemon Wong, the vice chairperson of Tuen Mun District Council and one of the remaining democrats, it is evident that the pro-democracy camp has been eliminated in the election. This statement was made during an interview with Reuters.

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Wong expressed his commitment to making the most of the remaining six months of his tenure as a councilor, acknowledging the challenges associated with the possibility of future opportunities.

The Chinese government implemented the national security law in response to the prolonged anti-government protests throughout 2019. This legislation aims to classify and punish acts deemed subversion, secessionism, terrorism, or cooperation with foreign forces. Offenders may face severe penalties, including life imprisonment.

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According to critics, the law is employed to suppress opposing viewpoints within the city that has reverted to Chinese jurisdiction under the “one country, two systems” framework, which was initially established to protect its liberties for 50 years.

The city authorities and the Beijing government refute allegations of suppressing dissent, asserting that it is crucial to maintain law and order, which serves as the foundation for the economic prosperity of the financial hub.

Hong Kong’s district councils (DC) primarily focus on community matters, such as street sweeping and bus stops. However, both Beijing and Hong Kong authorities have expressed their intention to establish measures that ensure the election of only “patriotic” individuals to these councils.

The amendment was hailed by John Lee, the city leader, as a significant milestone in enhancing governance.

In a formal statement, the speaker emphasized the need to address institutional loopholes and effectively eliminate individuals or groups opposed to China and contribute to destabilization.

The legislative exercise aims to implement the principle of ‘patriots administering Hong Kong.’ It ensures that individuals who are loyal to the country have control over the District Councils (DCs).

As outlined in the Basic Law, the Chinese government has committed to achieving universal suffrage for Hong Kong as a long-term objective.

In an official statement, a European Union (EU) representative has expressed the EU’s call for the Chinese and Hong Kong authorities to take action to rebuild trust in Hong Kong’s democratic procedures. The EU further urges the authorities to actively work towards implementing universal suffrage, as outlined in the Basic Law.

In the 2019 district council election, pro-democracy politicians secured a significant victory by winning 388 out of 452 district council seats. This outcome translates to nearly 90% of the total seats, thereby significantly damaging the pro-Beijing camp and causing them considerable embarrassment.

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