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HOME  > Past issues  > 2021 March 17 - 23  > China should not carry out electoral reform that deprives Hong Kongers of their right to free elections
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2021 March 17 - 23 [WORLD]

China should not carry out electoral reform that deprives Hong Kongers of their right to free elections

March 17, 2021

Akahata editorial (excerpts)

China's top legislature, the National People's Congress (NPC), has recently decided on a reform in Hong Kong’s election system. With the reform, a system for screening candidates’ qualifications will be introduced with the aim of excluding pro-democracy activists and those who oppose China’s policies from direct elections for the Hong Kong Legislative Council (LegCo). Even now, in Hong Kong, opportunities for direct voting are limited, which means that citizens experience substantial restrictions on their rights to vote and to hold office. Together with the enactment of the “Hong Kong National Security Act” last year, China’s latest decision will trample on Hong Kong citizens’ fundamental human rights and undermine the “One Country, Two Systems” framework.

The NPC’s decision calls for “Hong Kong to be administered by patriots and those who love the city” and states that all candidates should be checked to see if they meet the Basic Act and the National Security Act of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region.

The Chinese authorities and the Hong Kong government have suppressed pro-democracy movements in the name of “patriots-administrating Hong Kong”. In November 2020, the Hong Kong government, following the NPC standing committee’s decision, stripped four pro-democracy activists of their LegCo positions. The National Security Act prohibits criticisms of the Chinese leadership and the Hong Kong authorities by labelling them as acts that endanger national security, such as calling for secession and subversion. Since the law was implemented in June 2020, many Hong Kong citizens have been arrested in violation of the law.

The new election system, which requires all candidates to abide by the national security law, will prevent people critical of the Chinese authorities from filing for office and turn the LegCo into an organ rubber-stamping China’s control over Hong Kong.

The Hong Kong Basic Act, which stipulates the city’s high degree of autonomy, contains a provision regarding the LegCo which states that the election of all members by direct universal suffrage is the ultimate goal. The basic law also aims for the election of Hong Kong’s chief executive by universal suffrage. The NPC’s decision goes against these statements.

This problem goes beyond domestic politics. The UN International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), which the Chinese government signed in 1998, states that every citizen has the right to freedom of opinion and expression and the right to choose his/her representative directly without facing discrimination and unreasonable restrictions. As the state party to the ICCPR, China is obliged to carry out these stipulations.

The “One Country, Two Systems” principle was developed by the Chinese leadership as a strategy for achieving unification with Taiwan in the first place. Chinese President Xi Jinping recently said that the concept of “peaceful unification on a one-country-two-systems basis” should be maintained in the nation’s policy on the unification with Taiwan. However, regarding Hong Kong, China threw away its international promise that the “one country, two systems” framework should not be changed for 50 years.

The need is to increase public voices worldwide in protest against China’s move to deprive Hong Kongers’ political rights and push the Chinese leadership to stop its outrageous actions.

Past related articles:
> Shii demands release of Hong Kong's pro-democracy activists [January 8, 2021]
> Shii condemns China’s imposition of national security legislation on Hong Kong [May 29, 2020]

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