Hong Kong Voters to Elect 15 Fewer Lawmakers Under New Legislative Proposal

Hong Kong lawmakers on Wednesday are expected to alter electoral laws to reduce the public's ability to vote, an effort to ensure Beijing loyalists in the seats of Hong Kong's legislature.

The amendments will allow the city's national security department to perform background checks of potential candidates. Voters will only directly elect 20 lawmakers, as opposed to the usual 35.

Hong Kong's legislative body will expand to 90 with 40 seats elected by a pro-Beijing election committee. The changes will also establish a new committee to ensure anyone running for public office is pro-Beijing.

These actions are an extension of Beijing's crackdown on the semi-autonomous city, where months of protests in 2019 and 2020 showcased China's efforts to gain full control of the territory.

For more reporting from the Associated Press, see below.

HK Legislature
Legislators attend a reading of 'Improving Electoral System (Consolidated Amendments) Bill 2021 - Second Reading' at the Legislative Council in Hong Kong on May 26, 2021. ANTHONY WALLACE/AFP/Getty Images

Debate is scheduled before the legislature votes on the bill, but little to no opposition is expected. The body's members are largely pro-Beijing after opposition lawmakers resigned en masse last year in protest over the ousting of four deemed to be insufficiently loyal to Beijing.

Authorities have arrested and charged most of the city's outspoken pro-democracy advocates, such as Joshua Wong, who was a student leader of 2014 protests, as well as media tycoon Jimmy Lai, who founded the Apple Daily newspaper.

China's rubber-stamp parliament in March endorsed changes to the city's electoral system, which then led to Hong Kong's proposals.

They are the latest in a string of moves to ensure people elected to office or serving the city are loyal to Beijing. An amendment the legislature approved earlier this month requiring the city's over 400 district councilors — who mainly deal with municipal matters — to take an oath pledging their loyalty to Hong Kong and to upholding its mini-constitution.

The oath was previously required only of legislators and government officials such as the chief executive.

A security officer stands guard at the entrance to the Legislative chamber during the reading of "Improving Electoral System (Consolidated Amendments) Bill 2021" in Hong Kong Wednesday, May 26, 2021. Hong Kong’s legislature on Wednesday is expected to approve electoral reforms that would drastically reduce the public’s ability to vote for lawmakers and increase the number of pro-Beijing lawmakers in the city. Vincent Yu/AP Photo