This year is the 32nd anniversary of the June Fourth Incident, the Hong Kong police continued last year’s practice for the second time to the new crown pneumonia epidemic to limit the gathering order, prohibiting Hong Kong people in Victoria Park to hold the June Fourth candlelight rally. Less than a week ago, the Hong Kong Legislative Council passed the third reading of the revised electoral system, Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor said that this move will ensure that “patriots rule Hong Kong” under “one country, two systems”. However, members of the U.S. Congress from both parties are concerned about the Hong Kong government’s continued restrictions on freedom and say weaponizing “patriotism” is a sign of tyranny.
Last Thursday (May 27), Hong Kong’s Legislative Council voted to pass the Third Reading of the “Electoral System Improvement Bill 2021”, which took effect on Monday (May 31) when it was published in the government gazette. The Hong Kong government will next use the new electoral system to plan for three elections, including the Election Committee subsector ordinary election in September this year, the Legislative Council general election in December, and the Chief Executive election in March next year.
Hong Kong’s Chief Executive Carrie Lam said the political chaos in Hong Kong in recent years fully illustrates the loopholes in Hong Kong’s electoral system. She was pleased that the government was able to quickly complete the work of amending the electoral legislation within two months, and said the Bill will ensure that Hong Kong’s political system implements the principle of “patriots ruling Hong Kong”, which is another important milestone.
Sen. Bob Menendez (D-NJ), chairman of the Senate Foreign Affairs Committee, told VOA he was concerned about the impact of the electoral reform measure on democracy and freedom in Hong Kong.
“This is just part of China’s ongoing campaign to exert greater and greater control over Hong Kong and create a veil of shame that does not create greater democracy for the people of Hong Kong, and therefore this will continue to be condemned,” Menendez said.
Sen. Marco Rubio’s (R-FL) office, vice chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, tweeted, “Weaponizing ‘patriotism’ is a hallmark of tyranny, and the CCP continues to crush free speech, democracy and the rule of law in Hong Kong, in violation of their international commitments, and the CCP must pay a high price for its violations.”
According to the content of the newly passed draft amendments to the Hong Kong Legislative Council, the composition of the next Legislative Council will be changed from the current 70 seats to 90 seats, with a significant reduction in the number of directly elected seats. The Bill will also add a new “Candidature Review Committee” to review the eligibility of candidates for the Election Committee, the Chief Executive and the Legislative Council, taking over the work of reviewing the eligibility of candidates previously undertaken by the Returning Officer, and introducing the National Security Division of the Police Force to assist in reviewing the eligibility of candidates, and to determine whether they meet the statutory requirements and conditions of upholding the Basic Law and pledging allegiance to the HKSAR. It also introduced the National Security Branch of the Police Force to assist in vetting the eligibility of candidates, and to make a judgment on whether they meet the statutory requirements and conditions of upholding the Basic Law and pledging allegiance to the HKSAR.
The relevant decisions of the Candidature Commission are not subject to litigation, i.e. they are not subject to appeal and judicial review. At the same time, the Bill also proposes to make it a criminal offence to incite collective “blank votes” or to disrupt an election.
Sen. Mitt Romney (R-UT), the ranking Republican on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee’s Asia Pacific panel, said in an interview with the Voice of America about the current political situation in Hong Kong, “It is clear that the Chinese Communist Party’s repression of the people of Hong Kong and its departure from the agreement to establish a separate government for Hong Kong demonstrates their lack the will to respect the rights of individuals.”
Congress is now actively pushing bipartisan legislation to provide refugee protection for Hong Kong people who are oppressed or may be at risk. Senate Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Menendez, along with a number of bipartisan lawmakers, last month introduced amendments to the Hong Kong Safe Harbor Act that would provide “second priority” refugee status for Hong Kong residents seeking asylum into the Strategic Competition Act (SCA), currently under consideration by the full House. The Strategic Competition Act (SCA) is currently before the full House.
Congress is currently in a week-long recess, and discussion of the bill is expected to continue when senators return to Washington on June 7.