Is Hong Kong better than China

China consolidates control over Hong Kong

Beijing - China's leadership presented plans for comprehensive electoral reform in the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region at the National People's Congress that began on Friday. Accordingly, the election committee, which determines the top government in Hong Kong, is to be changed in such a way that Beijing has even more influence.

Prime Minister Li Keqiang opened the plenary session of the People's Congress on Friday. The 3,000 delegates are to approve the "reform" in the course of the one-week meeting. Several media reported that the elections in Hong Kong should be postponed for another year to September 2022.

The electoral reform is intended to further reduce the influence of the democratic opposition in Hong Kong. Beijing wants to ensure that the Special Administrative Region is "ruled by patriots," a speaker said.

According to media reports, the number of members loyal to Beijing is to be increased significantly in the election committee that determines the leadership of Hong Kong. At the same time, it is expected that the role of the district councils will be reduced. They have hardly any power anyway, but they exemplify the mood in the population, as they are democratically elected. In 2019, candidates from the camp of democracy advocates won almost 90 percent of the seats, which amounted to a loss of face for the establishment.

One country, one system?

After the controversial security law was passed last July against the opposition, the change in the electoral system is another blow to the previously liberal system in the formerly autonomously administered British crown colony, which returned to China in 1997.

Originally, when Hong Kong was handed over to China, it was promised autonomy for at least 50 years based on the principle of "one country, two systems". After mass protests, however, China passed what is known as a security law with the aim of combating secession, subversion, terrorism and foreign interference. Critics speak of a profound interference with autonomy.

The EU immediately criticized the announced restructuring of the electoral system on Friday: "Such a reform would potentially have far-reaching negative consequences for democratic principles and democratically elected representatives in Hong Kong." The project would also fail to keep promises that Hong Kong would maintain its semi-autonomous status. "The EU stands ready to take additional steps in response to a further serious deterioration in political freedoms and human rights in Hong Kong that would violate China's national and international obligations," the broadcast said.

Military spending is rising

Against the background of growing tensions with the USA, India, Taiwan and in the controversial South China Sea, the Chinese government also announced at the People's Congress that it intends to increase its military spending by 6.8 percent this year. This means that spending on the military is growing again significantly faster than the overall budget. In the previous year, the increase was 6.6 percent despite the Corona crisis. "The military's strategic capabilities to protect the sovereignty, security and development interests of our country are being strengthened," said Premier Li Keqiang.

In the controversies surrounding Hong Kong and Taiwan, Li Keqiang issued strong warnings. In his hour-long speech, he spoke out against "interference from outside forces" in Hong Kong. China's leadership will also take decisive action against "separatist activities" in Taiwan that seek independence. Beijing regards the democratic and free island state as part of the People's Republic and threatens to conquer it.

Global competition

Despite the global recession caused by the corona pandemic, China wants to achieve strong economic growth of more than six percent this year. In order to become more independent from abroad, Prime Minister Li Keqiang emphasized the need to give priority to the development of the domestic economy. In-house innovations are also to be promoted more strongly than before in order to reduce technological dependency on the rest of the world.

An important realignment is the concept of "two cycles", in which domestic circulation is to be promoted. In this way, China wants to make itself more independent in the face of US sanctions and the global crisis. As part of the five-year plan, the strategy is to "expand domestic demand, intensify structural reforms on the supply side and generate new demand with innovation-driven development and high-quality offers," said Li Keqiang.

Innovation remains at the heart of the modernization offensive. "We will strengthen our science and technology in order to strategically support China's development," said the premier. Digitization should also be accelerated further. Research and development spending is expected to increase by more than seven percent annually. The share of economic output is expected to climb higher than in the old five-year plan. (APA, Reuters, red, March 5, 2021)