China’s parliament approves plan to reform Hong Kong’s electoral system

China moves to tighten control over Hong Kong's electoral system

United Kingdom foreign secretary Dominic Raab slammed China's electoral changes relating to Hong Kong on Thursday, stating that Beijing was attempting to "hollow out" democratic processes in the special administrative region.

He also urged authorities to drop charges imposed in Hong Kong against activists under a draconian new security law.

The EU said the decision would have a "significant impact on democratic accountability and political pluralism in Hong Kong".

Beijing's moves to change Hong Kong's electoral system are the latest in a series of policies to exert additional control over the city, removing any potential avenues of dissent.

The UK declared China in violation of the Joint Declaration shortly afterwards, and again in November past year when Beijing moved to disqualify elected opposition lawmakers in Hong Kong.

Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam has said earlier this week that the city's government "fully welcomes" changes to the city's electoral system.

Analysts say that the blanket requirement for "patriotism" raises the risk that politicians will compete over who is more loyal to Beijing, rather than on the best better ideas for governing the city.

Raab made similar statements to the 46th regular session of the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) - which started on 22 February and runs until 22 March - where he urged the worldwide body to conduct an inquiry into alleged human rights abuses in Xinjiang and Hong Kong.

Now, Lam explained, Beijing is asserting "comprehensive jurisdiction" over Hong Kong: "Beijing will set the rules and they're supposed to be followed without any question by Hong Kong citizens".

"Instead of disqualifying, now the task of scrutinizing candidates will be done by a committee with wider representation than simply by an election officer who is a civil servant, so I tend to think the process will have more transparency than now", said Tong.

Television screens at a store in Hong Kong show news of the National People's Congress approving changes to the city's electoral system during its closing session on Thursday.

The Legislative Council will also swell from 70 seats to 90.

Until now, residents in Hong Kong have been free to contest polls on their own.

Now half of the 70 seats in the Legislative Council, known as LegCo, are directly elected, a proportion which will shrink with the extra seats picked by the electoral committee. The other half represents industries, unions, and professions and is largely stacked with pro-Beijing figures.

China had promised universal suffrage as an ultimate goal for Hong Kong in its mini-constitution, the Basic Law.

Critics say the changes to the electoral system move Hong Kong in the opposite direction, leaving the democratic opposition with the most limited space it has ever had since the 1997 handover, if any at all.

It is not clear what shape any future opposition could take and how its message could comply with loyalty requirements.