Some Hong Kong Lawmakers Applaud Bill That Will Keep Many Pro-Democracy Candidates From Running

Pro-Beijing lawmakers lauded the passage of a bill in Hong Kong's legislature on Thursday that amends the law to make it more difficult for pro-democracy candidates to run for office, the Associated Press reported.

The bill, which passed by a 40-2 vote, allows the city's national security department to run background checks on potential candidates and sets up a committee to ensure that the candidates are "patriotic."

Pro-Beijing lawmakers showed support for the bill during the debate on Wednesday and Thursday, saying that reforms would prevent those not loyal to Hong Kong from running for office.

Some pointed out that multiple bills that impact people's livelihoods have been passed with more ease this year compared to in 2020, when pro-democracy lawmakers would at times filibuster or behave disruptively during meetings to stall the passage of bills that they disagreed with.

For more reporting from the Associated Press, see below.

Pro-Democracy Hong Kong
Pro-China supporters pop a bottle of champagne outside the West Kowloon Magistrates Courts to celebrate the sentencing of the pro-democracy activists on trial on April 16, 2021, in Hong Kong. A new law passed in Hong Kong will keep pro-democracy candidates from running for office due to new background checks from the government to ensure patriotism. Anthony Kwan/Getty Images

Pro-democracy lawmakers resigned en masse last year in protest over the ousting of four lawmakers deemed to be insufficiently loyal to Beijing.

Lo Kin-hei, chairman of Hong Kong's largest pro-democracy party, said it was "unhappy" with the bill's passage.

"We are disappointed with the way that the government is changing the electoral system, because we can see that the representation of the people from Hong Kong in the Legislative Council or in the institution as a whole is much less than before, so this is not something which is good for Hong Kong," Lo told AP.

Lo said that his Democratic Party had not yet decided if they would take part in the upcoming legislative elections in December.

The changes to Hong Kong's elections come as Beijing further tightens control over the semi-autonomous city that saw months of anti-government protest and political strife in 2019.

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 requires the city's over 400 district councilors—who mainly deal with municipal matters—to take an oath pledging 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.

Hong Kong Legislature
Pro-China lawmakers attend the second meeting of Improving Electoral System (Consolidated Amendments) Bill 2021 at the Legislative Council in Hong Kong on May 27, 2021. Hong Kong’s legislature on Thursday moved closer to amending electoral laws that would drastically reduce the public’s ability to vote for lawmakers and increase the number of pro-Beijing lawmakers making decisions. Vincent Yu/AP Photo