HONG KONG • Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam said yesterday it was “crystal clear” that Beijing needs to reform the city’s electoral system, just a day after China’s top official for the city signalled that major changes were coming.
She said political unrest in the former British colony, including massive protests in 2019, had forced Beijing to ensure the city is governed by patriotic officials.
“It is crystal clear we have reached a stage where the central authorities will have to take action to address the situation, including electoral reform,” she said at a press conference.
Mr Xia Baolong, Beijing’s top official for the city, said on Monday that China faces the “critical and urgent” task of overhauling the way Hong Kong handles its elections.
Beijing needed to implement reforms “to ensure that Hong Kong’s governance is firmly controlled by patriots”, said Mr Xia, director of China’s Cabinet-level Hong Kong and Macau Affairs Office.
Hong Kong’s government will also gazette a Bill later this week that will require community-level district councils to pledge an oath of allegiance to the city’s mini-Constitution.
Secretary for Mainland and Constitutional Affairs Eric Tsang said: “You cannot say that you are patriotic, but you do not love the leadership of the Chinese Communist Party or you do not respect it – this does not make sense.”
Any district councillor suspended from office after failing the loyalty test would be sent to court for formal disqualification and banned from contesting elections for five years.
The Bill potentially paves the way for the mass disqualification of pro-democracy politicians who took almost 90 per cent of 452 district council seats in Hong Kong in the 2019 elections, defeating the pro-Beijing camp.
The Legislative Council will debate the Bill on March 17.
Mr Henry Wong, a pro-democracy councillor from suburban Yuen Long, said he was still deciding whether to take the oath under the new law. “This is just an act to legalise their brutal force in destroying democracy voices,” he added.