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China Approves Changes to Hong Kong’s Electoral Process, Further Tightening Control of City

Chinese President Xi Jinping, left, and his Premier Li Keqiang cast their vote during the closing session of the National People's Congress (NPC) at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, Thursday, March 11, 2021. China's ceremonial legislature on…

China’s national legislature has approved a package of changes to Hong Kong’s electoral process that gives the central government in Beijing tighter control over the city’s legislature, a move critics say will further diminish the city’s pro-democracy movement.

The ceremonial National People’s Congress on Thursday approved the changes by a vote of 2,895 to nothing, with just one abstention.

The changes include expanding the size of Hong Kong’s electoral commission, which selects the city’s chief executive and a number of members of the Legislative Council, from 1,200 to 1,500 members, and grants more voting power to the commission’s pro-Beijing members. The plan also increases the number of seats in the Legislative Council from 70 to 90, and strips the voting rights of several lower-level district councilors, many of whom are pro-democracy supporters.

The proposed reforms would ensure the Hong Kong legislature is filled strictly with “patriots,” a term used last month by Xia Baolong, the director of the Hong Kong and Macao Affairs Office of the State Council.

Hong Kong was scheduled to hold elections to the Legislative Council last September, but the government postponed them for a year citing the COVID-19 pandemic.