What is China's final in Hong Kong

Beijing will control the Hong Kong election in the future

The changes to the electoral system of the Special Administrative Region were unanimously approved by the Standing Committee of the National People's Congress, Tam Yiu-chung, the sole delegate from Hong Kong, told AFP. China's People's Congress initiated the change in the electoral law in the Special Administrative Region in mid-March. Its purpose is to ensure that Hong Kong can only be run by "patriots".

With this, Beijing wants to gain control over the selection of candidates. Among other things, the Chinese leadership is to receive veto rights in order to be able to exclude certain candidates. The reform also envisages an increase in the Hong Kong Parliament from 70 to 90 seats. According to the electoral reform, only 20 instead of 35 seats will be allocated by direct election in future, as Tam said. A majority of 40 seats is given by a committee loyal to Beijing. The remaining 30 parliamentarians are to be selected by “specialist constituencies” that represent certain industries and are traditionally also considered loyal to Beijing.

The EU and USA see autonomy rights violated

According to the reform, candidates must undergo an examination of their political views. According to Tam, the committee to lead this investigation will be created by the Hong Kong authorities. The new national security apparatus is also to be included in the candidate admission process.

The electoral reform was already subject to major international criticism and, above all, disputes with the West before it was formally confirmed. After the Chinese People's Congress gave the go-ahead for the changes, the EU and the US complained about a blatant violation of Hong Kong's autonomy rights. Foreign Minister Antony Blinken spoke at the time of a "direct attack on the autonomy promised to Hong Kong under the Sino-British joint declaration" of 1997.

Crackdown on democracy activists

At the end of June of the previous year, China had already introduced the “security law” and thus severely interfered with Hong Kong's autonomous status. The law allows the authorities to crack down on any activity that they believe threatens China's national security. This includes all activities that Beijing considers to be subversive, separatist, terrorist or part of a conspiracy with foreign forces.

Violations can be punished with life imprisonment. The law is already being used against democracy activists. Beijing responded to the mass protests in 2019 with the “security law”. When it was handed over to China in 1997, the former British crown colony had been granted special rights for 50 years, including freedom of expression and assembly. Western states also see the “security law” as a blatant violation of the agreements made at the time.

Tensions also due to the oppression of the Uyghurs

Meanwhile, tensions between China and the West in the dispute over the suppression of the Uyghurs are also growing. After sanctions against several European politicians and organizations, Beijing also imposed punitive measures against representatives of the USA and Canada at the weekend, as the Chinese Foreign Ministry announced.

Great Britain, the EU, Canada and the USA imposed sanctions on China earlier last week for the suppression of the Muslim Uyghur minority in northwestern Xinjiang Province. Beijing rejected the allegations and imposed sanctions on politicians and scientists as well as organizations from the EU and Great Britain.

China accused the US and Canada of imposing sanctions based on "rumors and disinformation" and in turn ordered punitive measures against two members of the US Commission on International Religious Freedom, Gayle Manchin and Tony Perkins, and Canadian MPs Michael Chong and the Canadian Parliamentary Committee on Human Rights.

Those affected are no longer allowed to enter mainland China and the Hong Kong and Macau special administrative areas, their assets there will be frozen. Chinese citizens and institutions are prohibited from cooperating with them. The sanctioned "must stop political manipulation on Xinjiang-related issues and stop interfering in any way in China's internal affairs," the ministry said. "Otherwise, they will burn their fingers."

Blinken and Trudeau condemn action

The US and Canada condemned the Chinese government's actions. "Beijing's attempts to intimidate and silence those who stand up for human rights and fundamental freedoms only add to the increasing international investigation into the continuing genocide and crimes against humanity in Xinjiang," said US Secretary of State Blinken on Saturday.

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau described the measures as "an attack on transparency and freedom of expression". The Canadian MP Chong saw the sanctions against him as a "badge of honor". "We have a duty to denounce China for its crackdown on Hong Kong and its genocide against the Uyghurs," he wrote on Twitter.

According to human rights organizations, at least one million Uyghurs and other Muslims are imprisoned in hundreds of detention camps in Xinjiang. There they are reportedly forced to give up their religion, culture and language and in some cases also mistreated. Beijing rejects the allegations and speaks of training and work programs aimed at combating extremism in the region.

Tense Washington - Beijing relations

Relations between the emerging superpower China and the USA are tense. Former US President Donald Trump had tightened the course vis-à-vis the government in Beijing, including in trade policy. His successor Joe Biden has initiated a departure from Trump's policy in many areas; In terms of China policy, however, the new president basically wants to stick to a tough course.

On Saturday, Biden also spoke out in favor of a competing project for the trillion-dollar “New Silk Road” in China. "I have suggested that we should essentially have a similar initiative coming from democratic states to help those around the world who do indeed need help," Biden said. Beijing's influence has grown in some countries in recent years through loans and projects under the New Silk Road initiative. The project sparked concern among regional powers and especially among Western nations. As part of the initiative, China helped a number of countries build or develop roads, railways, dams and ports.