Hong Kong Leader Confirms China Revamp May Force Election Delays

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Chief Executive Carrie Lam said she is unsure if upcoming legislative elections will be delayed again, as Chinese lawmakers work behind closed doors in Beijing to curb opposition candidates’ influence over future votes.

“I cannot tell you at this point whether we need to further defer the election,” Lam said Monday after returning from annual National People’s Congress meetings in the Chinese capital. “We have a mammoth task ahead of us.”

The election overhaul announced Friday by the NPC will require Hong Kong to enact “more than 20 pieces of principle and subsidiary legislation,” said Lam, who was appointed by Beijing. The measures could be pushed through without the usual public consultations, she said, describing an process similar to the national security law enacted by China in June.

Hong Kong Leader Confirms China Revamp May Force Election Delays

“Because of the urgency of completing the whole exercise, which involves local legislation, we will not be able to do the so-called extensive public consultations,” Lam said. “But we have been listening to the people about the concerns of the electoral system about the malfunctioning of the Legislative Council in the past.”

Hong Kong made an unprecedented decision to delay its Legislative Council election in September last year. While authorities said the move was necessary due to a coronavirus outbreak, democracy activists said it was intended to keep them from winning their first majority in the chamber. The vote was to be held this coming September.

Local media including the South China Morning Post reported last week that authorities would delay a vote to choose members of the city’s 70-seat Legislative Council for another year.

The plans follow through on Chinese President Xi Jinping’s demand that “patriots” run the financial hub. China’s drive to overhaul the way Hong Kong picks its leaders have picked up steam since 2019, when sometimes violent pro-democracy protests rocked the city and the pro-democracy camp later won a decisive victory in elections for District Councils, whose members run some of the city’s lowest levels of government.

China’s legislature, the National People’s Congress, imposed a sweeping national security law on Hong Kong last year, using it to arrest some 100 opposition figures, former lawmakers and activists. That move has been criticized by business groups and sanctions from the U.S. government.

Lam suggested that a separate election later this year to choose the 1,200 members of a committee that will choose her successor might also not be able to held as scheduled. “Now, you assume that every five years, there’ll be an election for the Election Committee in December, but then this may change,” Lam said.

The size, composition and formation of the Election Committee would be “adjusted and improved,” said Wang Chen, a senior Chinese legislator. The revamped body will have a say in the nomination of all candidates for the city’s legislative body and pick “a relatively large share” of them, Wang said.

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