U.S. Consul General for Hong Kong and Macau slams Hong Kong’s election system as a big step backwards, China: don’t eat that!

Hanscom Smith, the U.S. consul general in Hong Kong and Macau, on Thursday (April 1) sharply criticized Beijing’s recent major changes to Hong Kong’s electoral system. He said that Hong Kong’s electoral system is essentially rigged and that this is a “huge step backwards” for Hong Kong.

Smucker made the comments in an interview with the South China Morning Post, an English-language Hong Kong media outlet. This is the first time a senior U.S. diplomat has publicly criticized within China the rules recently passed by Beijing on the methods for selecting Hong Kong’s Chief Executive and Legislative Council.

The interview with Shih was widely followed by the Hong Kong media, with many major outlets reprinting and reporting on it.

The South China Morning Post published the report on Friday. He said the changes, which were adopted by the “rubber-stamp” National People’s Congress, “will reshape Hong Kong’s electoral system in a more radical way. He said the Legislative Council and the Election Committee, which selects Hong Kong’s chief executive, are staffed with supporters selected by the authorities, and that all those who want to run for the legislature are subject to a so-called “patriot” vetting process.

Under such a procedure, Shih emphasized that “neither the future Chief Executive election nor the Legislative Council election will produce a meaningful democratic outcome, nor will they elect representatives of the will of the Hong Kong people who are inclusive and credible.”

Shi Moc’s comments apparently angered Beijing. The Chinese Foreign Ministry Office in Hong Kong responded on Friday (April 2) in what the public is familiar with as a “war wolf” style, saying that Shi “spoke out of turn” and “admonished” U.S. officials in Hong Kong “recognize the current situation, put yourself in the right position and immediately stop interfering in Hong Kong affairs and China’s internal affairs.

In the statement, the PCPD also said on behalf of the Chinese people and the people of Hong Kong that they “won’t eat this!”

The PCPD spokesman said that China’s revision of Hong Kong’s electoral system is aimed at improving the principle of “one country, two systems” and implementing the principle of “patriots ruling Hong Kong”, which is constitutional, legal, reasonable and sensible.

Under the Beijing-led design, a number of important changes have been made to Hong Kong’s electoral system. The size of the Election Committee was expanded from 1,200 to 1,500 members, and the original four major constituencies were expanded to five major constituencies of 300 members each.

Forty, 30 and 20 members are returned by the Election Committee election, functional constituency election and direct election by geographical constituencies, respectively. The number of directly elected seats in the districts was reduced from the previous 35 to 20. The number of seats in the Election Committee held by some sectors in which the democratic camp used to have an advantage was also significantly reduced.

Through multiple layers of qualification and special arrangements, so-called “unpatriotic” candidates will all be excluded. These changes mean that “any voice that Beijing doesn’t approve of can’t actually have any meaningful effect [in Hong Kong],” Shi said.

Smucker’s interview with the South China Morning Post comes a day after the State Department released its 2021 Hong Kong Policy Act Report. Noting that China has recently continued to destroy Hong Kong’s high degree of autonomy, Secretary of State Blinken has told Congress that Hong Kong no longer enjoys the special treatment previously granted to it under U.S. law.

The report cites Beijing and the Hong Kong government’s efforts to undermine Hong Kong’s high degree of autonomy, freedom and democracy, including arbitrary arrests and charges against opposition politicians, activists and peaceful demonstrators based on national security laws; postponement of Legislative Council elections, pressure on judicial independence, academic and press freedom; and a de facto ban on mass demonstrations, among others.

In the past year, 35 Hong Kong government officials and Beijing officials have been sanctioned by the United States for their alleged involvement in undermining Hong Kong’s autonomy, including Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor.

Shih said the U.S. aims to make (the practices in question) pay, create a deterrent and “demonstrate our unity.” Smucker also said the U.S. will decide, based on the options and tools at its disposal, “to respond to further attacks and erosion of Hong Kong’s autonomy.”

He noted that the implementation of Hong Kong’s national security laws has created an atmosphere of fear and coercion in Hong Kong and has impeded communication between Hong Kong opposition activists and the U.S. Consulate General. Smucker pledged to “continue to engage with people from all walks of life.”

Smucker is concerned about the recent changes in Hong Kong. He noted that Hong Kong used to be one of the most developed regions in the world because of “its openness, pluralism and communication between all sides.

The U.S. diplomat said Washington shares many values with Hong Kong. Those values have come under attack from Beijing. He said, “We’re here to promote those things that we think are the ones that work.”