HONG KONG — China’s sweeping overhaul of Hong Kong’s election system will give national security bodies vast power over who can run for office, a move that could sideline the pro-democracy opposition for years to come.
Hong Kong’s pro-democracy figures had long enjoyed a greater share of the vote in direct elections, but the system was stacked against them, ensuring the pro-Beijing camp controlled the legislature. On Tuesday, the standing committee of the Communist Party-controlled National People’s Congress in Beijing approved changes that would ensure an even stronger legislative majority for the establishment.
The changes give Beijing and its handpicked local leaders vast powers to block any opposition candidate China deems disloyal, aiming to stamp out the intense antigovernment sentiment that fueled protests in 2019.
charged 47 pro-democracy politicians, including most of the camp’s most prominent figures, with subversion under a national security law. Others are in court on charges of unauthorized assembly. The prosecutions have effectively silenced much of the opposition.
The security law has also loomed over the city, curbing its environment for free expression. Some politicians have warned that Hong Kong’s new art museum, M+, risks violating the security law if it displays works from artists like the Chinese dissident Ai Weiwei.
A local broadcaster, TVB, said this week that it would not show the Oscars after 52 years of televising the event. It said the decision was commercial, but this year’s awards include two nominees that are politically sensitive in China. “Do Not Split,” a nominee for best documentary short, focuses on the 2019 Hong Kong protests, and Chloé Zhao, the first Chinese woman and the first woman of color to be nominated for best director, has stirred a backlash over a 2013 interview in which she criticized her native country.
Trump and Biden administrations imposed financial sanctions on Chinese and Hong Kong officials deemed as having undermined the city’s autonomy.
Several nations have also announced they would make it easier for people from Hong Kong to immigrate. Britain has opened up residency and a potential pathway to citizenship for millions of people from Hong Kong, a former British colony.
As the political changes pushed by Beijing continue to shake Hong Kong, more people are likely to consider options for leaving, said Sonny Lo, a political analyst based in Hong Kong.