Hong Kong polls delayed until December for Beijing-approved electoral reforms

Hong Kong, Mar 30 (efe-epa).- Hong Kong legislative polls will be held in December under a controversial electoral reform that China approved Tuesday to tighten its control on the autonomous city.

Legislative Council President Andrew Leung told reporters that incumbent lawmakers would stay on in the council until the new elections took place.

The elections were to be held in September 2020, but officials delayed the plan in July last year, citing the pandemic.

Chief Executive Carrie Lam had promised that the polls would take place in September this year.

The delay, ostensibly due to a resurgence in coronavirus cases in the city, came after democrats had won a landslide victory in district council polls.

Lam had, however, denied there were political considerations behind the postponement.

Leung’s announcement coincides with Beijing’s approval of a controversial electoral reform for Hong Kong that will reduce the number of directly elected representatives from half to just one-fifth.

He said the amendments needed to be adopted by the city legislature before the December polls.

“The amendments need to be done a lot earlier than that because the election committee will also need to be elected beforehand,” Leung said.

“So I think the pressing question is for the bills committee to scrutinize the bill as quickly as possible so we allow time for the two elections to take place,” he said.

China’s top legislature earlier on Tuesday unanimously voted to approve two amendments to Hong Kong’s electoral law that will give Beijing greater control over the city’s electoral system and restrict the Hong Kongers’ right to stand for election.

The electoral reforms, signed into law by President Xi Jinping, overhauled the system to elect the city chief executive and its legislative council formation.

Beijing sees the amendments as “another major step in tackling the loopholes in the city’s governance structure.”

Hong Kong’s electoral system was already tilted in favor of pro-Beijing nominees.

The city parliament will have 90 seats compared to the current 70.

However, the number of representatives elected by direct vote will now be down to 20 seats from 35.

The number of lawmakers appointed by a Beijing-controlled electoral committee would increase to 40.

Thirty lawmakers would be nominated for special interests such as business, banking, and trade. Such nominations have always been heavily pro-Beijing.

The reforms also expand Election Committee, which elects the Chief Executive, by 300 members from an existing 1,200.

The 300 new seats in the heavily pro-Beijing panel are reserved for Hong Kong the National People’s Congress (NPC) and the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference, the highest advisory body of the Chinese government. EFE-EPA

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