A Beijing official has signalled that Hong Kong will undergo a set of electoral reforms under the leadership of the Chinese authorities, with an aim to block “anti-China” opposition forces from the city’s governing bodies.

The Director of the Hong Kong and Macao Affairs Office (HKMAO) Xia Baolong outlined the criteria for “patriots ruling Hong Kong” in a conference held by the Chinese Association of Hong Kong and Macao Studies in Beijing on Monday.

Xia Baolong
Xia Baolong. Photo: Gov.cn.

Xia said the power to govern the semi-autonomous region must lie in hands of patriots, as it was the “fundamental principle” of fulfilling One Country, Two Systems. He said people in almost all countries and regions will demonstrate patriotism when running for public office, except for some in Hong Kong.

“Only in Hong Kong would some people show off their rebellion against their motherland… or even use their opposition to the country, the rejection of the [Central Government] and the demonisation of their own ethnic group as election slogans, and make an extremely ugly political performance when they swear into office,” Xia said.

The HKMAO head described patriots as individuals who genuinely uphold Chinese sovereignty and respect the constitutional order of the HKSAR. He said people who “smear” the country and city and those “begging for” foreign sanctions would not be seen as patriots.

Violators of the national security law – often described as “draconian” by critics – would also definitely be off the patriots list, said the senior Chinese official in Hong Kong. The sweeping legislation promulgated on June 30 last year criminalises secession, subversion, collusion with foreign forces and terrorist acts.

Hong Kong China flag
Photo: GovHK.

Xia labelled the opposition camp in Hong Kong as “anti-China” and pro-independence, saying “radical separatist forces” had entered the HKSAR’s governing framework via different elections, holding positions in the Legislative Council, the Election Committee of the chief executive and the District Council.

“In our country that adopts socialist democracy, different political opinions are allowed. But there is a red line, that is [people] are definitely not allowed to harm the country’s fundamental system,” he said.

‘Patriots ruling Hong Kong’

Last November, Beijing’s top legislative body passed a resolution that enabled the Hong Kong government to oust four “unpatriotic” lawmakers from the pro-democracy camp. It led to a mass resignation of democrats, leaving the LegCo with mostly pro-establishment legislators and no effective opposition.

national security
Photo: GovHK.

Xia said the most important and urgent move to implement “patriots ruling Hong Kong” was to “perfect” the city’s electoral system, to ensure the loyalists of China could “firmly hold” the governing power of Hong Kong. The HKMAO director warned that the local authorities must not allow individuals who are pro-independence, or supporters of “mutual destruction” and “black violence” – referencing black-clad protesters in the 2019 anti-extradition bill movement – to become part of the SAR regime.

“The electoral system in Hong Kong should achieve these effects: fully respect the democratic rights of the public, practically safeguard national sovereignty and security… guarantee all kinds of elections are just, fair and open and effectively prevent the proxies of anti-China members who disrupt Hong Kong and international anti-China forces to enter SAR’s organs of power.”

Democrats disqualify Legislative Council
(From left to right) Kwok Ka-ki, Alvin Yeung, Dennis Kwok and Kenneth Leung are unseated from the legislature on November 11, 2020. Photo: Stand News.

The reforms must be executed under the leadership of Beijing, Xia said, adding the authorities must devise policies to ensure the people who make up the city’s executive, legislative and judicial branches, as well as the person-in-charge of important statutory organisations, are patriots.

“Important positions, under any circumstances, cannot be taken up by anti-China forces that disrupt Hong Kong,” Xia warned.

The Hong Kong government has indicated plans to amend the existing legislation on oath-taking for people in public office to cover district councillors. Critics slammed the move as an attempt to further eliminate opposition in the city, after the pro-democracy camp won a historic landslide victory against pro-establishment candidates in the 2019 District Council election.

Last December, local media reported that Beijing has plans to crack down on the district councils and reform the chief executive’s election committee. Currently, district councillors vote among themselves to fill the 117 seats in the election committee.

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Kelly Ho has an interest in local politics, education and sports. She formerly worked at South China Morning Post Young Post, where she specialised in reporting on issues related to Hong Kong youth. She has a bachelor's degree in Journalism from the University of Hong Kong, with a second major in Politics and Public Administration.