HONG KONG (Reuters) – Pro-Beijing candidates are arguably running for most of the seats on a Hong Kong election commission tasked with choosing the city’s leader, with the pro-democracy camp almost absent, reports revealed on Friday. government announcements.
The September 19 vote for the committee is the first election since China overhauled Hong Kong’s electoral system in May to ensure that the former British colony is ruled by “patriots” loyal to Beijing.
After the week-long nomination period ended on Thursday, the government said it had received only 1,056 nominations for the 980 seats open to competition.
A new committee that can disqualify candidates is tasked by law to work closely with Chinese security authorities to review candidates for the electoral committee as well as for the leadership election in 2022.
The composition of the electoral committee is the latest blow to the opposition movement which has seen dozens of members arrested, jailed or flee Hong Kong since Beijing imposed a national security law on the city last year.
The committee membership of 117 Democrat-dominated community-level district councilors was removed and more than 500 seats reserved for Chinese business, political and interest groups were added.
The representation of professional sub-sectors that traditionally had a greater pro-democracy presence, including legal, educational, social, medical and health services, was diluted by the addition of ex-officio members, which reduced the number of seats elected.
Twenty-three of the 36 sub-sectors open to the competition, totaling around 600 seats, will not see any competition because the number of candidates matched the number of seats, suggesting coordination of nominations.
CHANGE OF CUSTODY
About 70% of the candidates were new faces who did not appear in the last two polls for the committee, which will have 1,500 members instead of the previous 1,200, according to Reuters calculations based on the election committee’s website.
China had promised universal suffrage as the ultimate goal for Hong Kong in its mini-constitution, the Basic Law, which also states that the city has broad autonomy from Beijing.
Democracy activists and Western countries alike say the political overhaul is moving the city in the opposite direction, leaving the democratic opposition with the most limited space it has had since the handover in 1997.
Many of the city’s prominent tycoons, including Hong Kong’s richest man Li Ka-shing, will not sit on the electoral committee for the first time, as Beijing seeks to rebalance power from large conglomerates to small businesses .
Li, of Cheung Kong Holdings, along with other real estate tycoons, Lee Shau-kee of Henderson Land, both 93, and Henry Cheng, 74, of New World Development, withdrew from the race, although their sons keep the seats they already have. .
The electoral committee will elect 40 seats in the revamped Legislative Council in December and choose a Hong Kong chief executive in March 2022.
Reporting by Clare Jim; edited by Philippa Fletcher