HONG KONG ( Associated Press) — Hong Kong’s legislature convened Wednesday for the first time since last month elections that were held under new law, ensuring that only “patriotic” candidates can prove their loyalty to Beijing. can walk in.
The 90-seat Legislative Council, known as Legco, is now entirely dominated by Beijing’s allies. Prominent opposition figures are in prison, in exile or threatened to keep quiet, and independent media outlets forced to shut down.
The largest pro-democracy party, the Democratic Party, decided not to field its candidates, instead recognizing it as a fundamentally undemocratic process. Only 20 seats were directly elected, and the turnout of 30.2% was the lowest since the British handed over Hong Kong to China in 1997. All candidates were extensively screened by a pro-Beijing committee before being nominated.
Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam began Wednesday’s session, using the opportunity to criticize former legislators, who she said were “anti-China and who attempted to destabilize Hong Kong, politicizing the council’s businesses”. and made it difficult for Legco to fully perform its functions.”
Since the expulsion or resignation of opposition legislators, the council has enjoyed “a fruitful year marked with a constructive and interactive relationship between Legco and the executive along with remarkable achievements”, said Lam, who is a member of several members of his government. is with. US visa restrictions.
Chinese President and ruling Communist Party chief Xi Jinping praised the elections as adhering to the “one country, two systems” principle, referring to the increasingly threadbare framework under which Hong Kong is given its own political, Social and financial institutions were to be maintained. Years after being transferred from British rule.
The elections were postponed by a year – apparently due to a spike in COVID-19 cases – after the opposition ran into elections for district advisers.
They followed widespread and increasingly violent anti-government protests in 2019, which prompted Beijing to impose a comprehensive national security law on Hong Kong, followed by a reorganization of the electoral process and change of the Legislative Council’s makeup to make it pro-Beijing. Inspired to stack with. Loyal
Some foreign pro-democracy activists, including London-based Nathan Law, urged a boycott of the vote, saying the elections were undemocratic. Under the new election laws, abetment to boycott voting or casting an illegal vote can be punished with up to three years in prison and a fine of 200,000 Hong Kong dollars ($26,500).
The session began as Hong Kong struggles with a new wave of COVID-19 infections related to the global spread of the Omicron variant.
Twenty lawmakers skipped the inaugural session after attending a large birthday party that raised fears of a new Omicron cluster when a guest tested positive for the coronavirus.
Hong Kong has also closed kindergartens and primary schools, banned flights from the United States and seven other countries after infections were discovered among students and placed 2,500 passengers on a cruise ship for coronavirus tests on Wednesday as the city attempts to contain the emerging Omicron outbreak.
Lam appeared to be refusing to impose a new lockdown at this time.
“If we want a stricter approach, we can only stay at home – that can only be done with a curfew,” Lam said. “Today I don’t think we are at that stage where we have to take drastic measures to deal with the pandemic.”