China approves Hong Kong election reforms that restrict opposition strength

Beijing, Mar 11 (efe-epa).- China’s National People’s Congress on Thursday approved a controversial electoral reform proposal for Hong Kong that seeks to boost Beijing’s presence in the semi-autonomous city and restrict the strength of the pro-democracy opposition.

The resolution was passed with 2,895 votes in favor, none against, and one abstention.

The draft was approved during the closing session of the annual meeting of the NPC.

It will now be handed to a legal committee of the Chinese legislature that will prepare a final draft to be ratified by the Standing Committee of the NPC.

Several Chinese officials and analysts had in recent weeks said that the reform sought to fill legal loopholes and ensure that people holding important official positions in Hong Kong must be “staunch patriots.”

The city witnessed massive anti-government protests in the second half of 2019.

Although the details of the proposal have not been released yet, Hong Kong media outlets claimed the reform includes the removal of 117 posts of district councilors, currently dominated by the opposition, as voters for the restricted election of the Hong Kong Chief Executive.

Similarly, the Election Committee’s members are set to be increased from 1,200 to 1,500 to include a sizable number of lawmakers from the local parliament, whose strength in the committee may go up from 70 to 90.

In a press conference after the closing session of the NPC, Chinese Premier Li Keqiang defended the reform, saying Beijing would continue to fully implement its “one country, two systems” principle for Hong Kong that allows a “high degree of autonomy.”

However, critics and the opposition have alleged that the fresh rules would limit the space for the opposition in the former British colony and make it more difficult to secure a majority in the local parliament.

On the last day of the NPC, the Chinese delegates also approved the country’s new five-year plan that would guide its policies between 2021-2025.

The plan would focus on boosting technological development and self-sufficiency to prevent geopolitical disputes from affecting the supply chain while emphasizing incentives for domestic demand.

According to the draft plan, investment in research and development would be increased by 7 percent until 2025.

China is especially focusing on boosting innovation in areas such as artificial intelligence, quantum computing, semiconductors, 5G networks, neuroscience, biotechnology, genetic research, and space and maritime exploration.

The government has established a 6 percent growth target for this year, with a focus on boosting the digital economy and continuing its anti-monopoly campaign in different sectors.

The plan also lays down the objective of reducing energy consumption growth by 13.5 percent and carbon emissions by 18 percent, along with the target of sourcing 20 percent of the total energy consumed from non-fossil fuels by 2025. EFE-EPA


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