China’s Most Important Political Gathering Comes to a Close

Resolution on Hong Kong biggest shake-up since ’97 hand-over . . .

China's annual meetings of the National People's Congress (NPC) and the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC), known jointly as the “Two Sessions,” ended today in Beijing. While the CPPCC serves as an advisory body to the Chinese government, the NPC is China’s national legislature. The week-long meeting is China’s most important political gathering of the year, with this year’s sessions leading to the approval of China’s 14th five-year plan, which sets the strategy for economic development and growth targets. This year’s meetings also concluded with the passage of a resolution on Hong Kong, which is being described as the biggest shake-up of the city’s electoral system since its reversion to Chinese control in 1997.

Patriots only need apply . . .

The NPC voted unanimously (with one abstention) to amend Hong Kong‘s Basic Law, the city’s mini constitution, establishing a vetting committee to review potential candidates for the Legislative Council and other committees. The new legislation, which vows to “guard the semi-autonomous city against foreign interference,” will ensure that Hong Kong's public officials are all pro-Beijing "patriots" loyal to the Chinese Communist Party. Critics of the measure say it will lead to the removal of any political opposition voices from Hong Kong's government and further undermines the “one country, two systems” principle that ostensibly granted the city some degree of autonomy.

What’s next for Hong Kong?

The new legislation is yet another blow to Hong Kong's pro-democracy movement, which erupted in 2019, and follows the controversial National Security Law for Hong Kong passed at last year’s “Two Sessions” meetings. Experts worry that the new measure will be followed by additional changes to Hong Kong’s governance, business environment, and legal system. U.K. Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab said this latest move will “only further undermine confidence and trust in China living up to its international responsibilities and legal obligations.” It will also likely be on the already packed agenda on the upcoming meeting between U.S. Secretary of State Anthony Blinken and National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan and their Chinese counterparts, Yang Jiechi and Wang Yi, scheduled for next week in Alaska.