A largely pro-Beijing committee that elects Hong Kong’s leader will also choose a large part of the legislature, a top Chinese official announced Friday as part of a major revamp that will tighten central government control over Hong Kong politics. The changes are part of a draft decision submitted on the opening day of the weeklong meeting of the National People's Congress, China's ceremonial legislature, which will all but certainly endorse it, the AP reports. The Election Committee will participate in the nomination of candidates for Hong Kong's legislature and also elect "a relatively large share" of its members, said Wang Chen, vice chairman of the NPC Standing Committee. Currently, half of the city's Legislative Council is directly elected by voters. The other half is elected by professional or special interest groups from sectors such as insurance and engineering.
That would be a significant rollback of democracy in Hong Kong, a semi-autonomous territory that has greater freedoms than mainland China but has seen them sharply cut back in the past year. With the largely pro-Beijing election committee nominating all candidates for the legislature, opposition figures could be barred from running in elections "It's kind of incredible that the Chinese government felt the need to change what was already an electoral system heavily rigged in favour of the pro-Beijing camp," says Stephen McDonell at the BBC. He notes that the move will eliminate "even the pretense of democratic elections in Hong Kong" and make it " almost impossible for any candidate advocating democratic change to be elected to office."
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