China’s geostrategy in embattled Hong Kong, as spelt out on Tuesday, has been choreographed to tighten the grip of Beijing, not least the People’s Liberation Army, over its protectorate. China has limited the composition of Parliament to a segment that it calls “patriots”.
The sweeping changes effected in Hong Kong’s electoral rules will tighten its control over the island nation. Small wonder the fresh changes have been greeted by the United States and Britain with an angry response. In this day and age, the clock has been turned back by 20 years, going by the perception of the champions of democracy.
The changes introduced are an antithesis of the spirit of democracy that had propelled the “Umbrella movement” of 2014. It thus comes about that the number of directly elected seats in Parliament has been cut almost by half, and prospective MPs will first be vetted by a pro-Beijing committee to ensure their loyalty to the mainland.
A more robust control over the legisature ~ theoretically the embodiment of the people’s will ~ is difficult to imagine. China’s goalpost, however dubious, is to ensure that only “patriotic” figures can run for positions of power. Critics have warned that the changes will spell the eclipse of democracy, fearing it will remove all opposition from Parliament. According to Hong Kong’s chief executive, Carrie Lam ~ who kowtows to China all too often ~ the vetting committee will not screen people “outbased on their political views, but rather weed out any nonpatriots”.
Mrs Lam said as long as the candidates can show allegiance to Hong Kong, uphold the Basic Law and pass national security checks, they will be permitted to run for election.
Democracy, therefore, will be in force in Hong Kong as per the imprimatur of the mainland and its ardent supporters in the protectorate. Britain, which handed over Hong Kong to China in 1997, must be aghast at the calibrated turn of events. The first vote under the changes, which will elect members to Hong Kong’s Legislative Council (LegCo), will be held in December. Beijing’s rubber-stamp Parliament approved the plan during the National People’s Congress (NPC) meetings earlier in March.
On Tuesday, Chinese state media reported that the country’s top decision-making body, the NPC Standing Committee, voted unanimously to pass the same. This amends Hong Kong’s mini-constitution, the Basic Law. The changes are designed to keep anyone who is not aligned with Beijing’s rule out of parliament. Political unrest could explode on Hong Kong’s streets again. The plot thickens as Beijing crafts the obituary of democracy.