Beijing Overhauls Election Rules in Hong Kong

Legislature expanded, but with stronger Beijing control . . .

On Tuesday, the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress unanimously approved constitutional changes to overhaul the electoral system in Hong Kong. The new modifications expanded the Hong Kong legislature from 70 to 90 members. However, the proportion of legislators directly elected by the public was more than halved – from 35 of the 70 members to just 20 of the 90 under the new rules. Furthermore, the constitutional amendment empowers the Election Committee, composed of primarily pro-Beijing politicians and which already has the power to elect the city’s chief executive, to select 40 members in the new legislature. Under the new rules, all prospective legislators have to be vetted for their “patriotism.” Exiled pro-democratic activist Nathan Law said the changes mean that there will be “no opposition voice in the council hereafter.”

Beijing’s election scare . . .

Beijing’s latest move to revamp Hong Kong’s electoral system comes as pro-democratic parties were gaining steam following the anti-extradition bill protests in 2019. In the 2019 District Council election, which is distinct from the legislative election, the pro-democratic camp won a landslide victory, sweeping 392 of the 452 seats and taking control of 17 of the 18 district councils. While these councils do not craft legislation and only focus on local issues, the pro-democratic camp’s victory struck a nerve with the central government. With the 2021 legislative election scheduled for September, Beijing’s electoral amendment can be viewed as a preemptive move to crack down on any remaining pro-democratic candidates.

Impending migration wave to Canada?

As the central government continues its crackdown in Hong Kong, some have argued that we may see an immigration wave to Canada once travel restrictions are lifted. Some real estate firms and immigration consultancies have speculated that Canada will be a “booming market” for Hong Kong immigrants. FINTRAC, Canada’s anti-money-laundering agency, recently reported a 10 per cent increase of electronic fund transfers from Hong Kong – from C$40 billion in 2019 to C$44 billion last year. While it is unclear how many Hong Kong residents will choose to relocate to Canada, Asia Watch will continue to follow these developments.