EU warns Beijing to tread carefully on Hong Kong electoral reform
As China prepares to alter Hong Kong's electoral system, the European Union has warned Beijing to "carefully consider the political and economic implications" of any decision to reform the electoral system of Hong Kong saying that the bloc is "ready to take additional steps" in response to any further serious deterioration of political freedoms and human rights in the city.
On March 4, the National People's Congress in China announced that it would deliberate on amending the electoral system of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region, according to a statement from the bloc dated Friday. A decision can be expected by March 11.
"If enacted, such reform would have potentially far-reaching negative consequences for democratic principles and democratically elected-representatives in Hong Kong," the EU said in a statement.
The EU stated that the amendment would also run counter to previous electoral reforms in Hong Kong and renege on the commitments enshrined in Articles 45 and 68 of the Basic Law to introduce universal suffrage in the elections of the Chief Executive and Legislative Council.
"The EU calls on the authorities in Beijing to carefully consider the political and economic implications of any decision to reform the electoral system of Hong Kong that would undermine fundamental freedoms, political pluralism and democratic principles," the EU said.
It added, "As agreed by EU Foreign Ministers, the EU stands ready to take additional steps in response to any further serious deterioration of political freedoms and human rights in Hong Kong, which would be against China's domestic and international obligations."
Along with the bloc, the United States has also condemned the continued assaults on the city's democratic institutions.
Speaking at the regular press briefing, US Department of State spokesperson Ned Price on Friday (local time) said bringing reforms to Hong Kong's electoral system is an attack on the region's autonomy and freedoms and the democratic processes.
"The United States condemns the PRC's [People's Republic of China] continuing assault on democratic institutions in Hong Kong," he said.
He further said, "The reforms to Hong Kong's electoral system... are a direct attack on Hong Kong's autonomy, Hong Kong's freedoms and the democratic processes, limiting participation, reducing democratic representation and stifling political debate in order to defy the clear will of the people of Hong Kong and to deny their voice in their own government."
Less than a year after imposing the draconian National Security Law, China on Thursday launched a legislative process for drastic electoral system reform in Hong Kong, which could benefit the pro-establishment camp and further smother the political opposition in the city.
China has planned a fundamental overhaul of the city's normally contentious politics, the New York Times reported.
Zhang Yesui, a senior Communist Party official, announced on Thursday that China's national legislature planned to rewrite election rules in Hong Kong to ensure that the territory was run by patriots, which Beijing defines as people loyal to the national government and the Communist Party.
Zhang did not release the details of the proposal. But Lau Siu-kai, a senior adviser to the Chinese leadership on Hong Kong policy, has said the new approach is likely to call for the creation of a government agency to vet every candidate running not only for chief executive but for the legislature and other levels of office, including neighbourhood representatives.
NYT also reported that the strategy will further concentrate power in the hands of the Communist Party in Hong Kong and decimate the political hopes of the territory's already beleaguered opposition for years to come.
The new reforms come months after China passed the nationals security law to quash the resistance to its rule in Hong Kong.