Prior to these changes, Hong Kong’s 70-seat legislature was more or less split between directly elected seats and so-called functional constituencies, seats chosen by trade and industry bodies that usually favor allies of Beijing. In theory, opposition parties could win a majority in the body, by taking almost every elected seat and a handful of functional constituencies, enabling them to have a major say in how the city is governed.
Those hoping to stand for those seats will face another hurdle: they must secure nominations from each of the five sectors of the Election Committee, something which may be impossible for all but a handful of opposition candidates.
That security law had already had a marked effect on the city’s politics, with almost every prominent pro-democracy lawmaker and activist arrested for allegedly breaching it by taking part in a primary election ahead of planned legislative elections last September.
The hope for organizers of the primary was to thin the field of opposition candidates, concentrating votes and giving them a better chance — though still an outside one, statistically — of winning a majority in the legislature. Some figures had suggested an opposition majority could block the government’s budget and maybe even force Chief Executive Carrie Lam to resign.
Speaking earlier this month, Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam said “there is no so-called international standard of democracy. Every democracy has to look into the proper context of that particular country, or that particular place.”
“We are improving the electoral system by making sure that whoever is governing and administering Hong Kong in future is somebody who loves the country, who loves Hong Kong,” she added.
The United States meanwhile, has described the move by Beijing as an “assault on democracy in Hong Kong.”
“These actions deny Hong Kongers a voice in their own governance by limiting political participation, reducing democratic representation, and stifling political debate,” he added. “Beijing’s actions also run counter to the Basic Law’s clear acknowledgment that Hong Kong elections should progress towards universal suffrage.”
Reporting contributed by Jadyn Sham in Hong Kong and CNN’s Beijing bureau.