G7 expresses grave concerns over electoral changes in Hong Kong

Blinken calls on China to uphold its international obligations and commitments on Hong Kong

Senior Chinese officials have hit back at the US' responses to electoral reforms in Hong Kong, slamming them as groundless and illegitimate meddling in China's affairs, the Global Times reported on Friday.

China's ceremonial parliament this week approved a resolution to alter Hong Kong's election law that many see as effectively ending the city's already weakened local democracy.

Issued by Foreign Affairs Minister Nanaia Mahuta and her Australian counterpart Senator Marise Payne, they said changes passed by China, further undermine rights and freedoms and the high degree of autonomy guaranteed to Hong Kong until 2047, under the Sino-British Joint Declaration.

UK Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab said the dilution of elections in Hong Kong would further undermine trust in China. According to legal analysts, the declaration does not include mutually agreed measures to ensure compliance.

The EU said the decision would have a "significant impact on democratic accountability and political pluralism in Hong Kong". Chinese officials have also hinted that they find Hong Kong's system of British common law burdensome and wish to eventually replace it with something closer to the system on the mainland, where courts and prosecutors are under strict party control.

At last year's meeting of the National People's Congress, the Communist Party leadership imposed a national security law on Hong Kong that has since been weaponised against the democracy movement.

Beijing has acted decisively to dismantle Hong Kong's democratic pillars after massive protests there in 2019.

By overhauling the electoral system, the central government wants to ensure that can not happen again.

The next major concern for New Zealand would be if the Hong Kong courts change their direction, and how commercial law is applied, he said.

The problem in Hong Kong is a "political one", he said, repeating an often-used - but unproven - allegation by Beijing that outside forces are fomenting disruption in the financial hub. Those started to come under stress following the suppression of anti-government protests in 2019 and the imposition of the national security law, as foreign governments began severing some legal agreements with the city and the US imposed visa bans and other sanctions on Chinese and Hong Kong officials, including Lam. Victoria Tin-bor Hui, Associate Professor of Political Science at the University of Notre Dame, took a similar view, telling AFP: "The new electoral arrangements will make sure that there is no chance for any pro-democracy figure to run in elections and get elected at all".

"There will still be some distinctions, particularly in things like commercial law, and taxation, in the way that the legislature operates", he said.