US, WASHINGTON (ORDO NEWS) — The arrest last week in Hong Kong of more than 50 pro-democracy activists illustrates the intensification of China’s efforts to quell a potential new wave of protests in the special administrative region, and additional measures are very likely, Reuters learned from two people directly briefed on Beijing’s plans.
The two, who have long experience in leading Hong Kong affairs and represent Beijing’s interests, spoke on condition of anonymity.
While stressing that the next steps that China could take are not finalized, the sources said that it is possible that the legislative elections in Hong Kong – scheduled for last summer but postponed until next September due to the coronavirus – do the subject of a reform intended, according to one of the sources, to reduce the influence of pro-democracy representatives.
Beijing has been “heavily” involved in initiating and coordinating actions by the Hong Kong government, one of the sources told Reuters.
The senior Chinese official added that the latest wave of arrests in the former British colony was part of a package of current measures intended to silence activists and “ensure that Hong Kong does not fall back into what we saw eighteen months ago, “when large anti-government protests rocked the territory in what was the biggest popular challenge facing Beijing in three decades.
China has been “too patient for too long, and it must deal with all of this once and for all,” the official added, indicating that additional crackdowns would be deployed for “at least a year”.
ENVISAGED ELECTORAL REFORM
A spokesperson for Hong Kong chief executive Carrie Lam said last June’s introduction of a new national security law had restored stability and reduced urban violence.
“The legitimate rights and freedoms of the people of Hong Kong have been respected and the criminals have been brought to justice through our independent judicial system,” the spokesperson said in an email to Reuters, without answering questions about the role of Beijing.
He added that legislative elections were scheduled for September 5 and that the authorities were working to ensure an open and fair ballot.
No comment was obtained from the Chinese government.
According to one of the sources, China still fears that the pro-democracy opposition will succeed in obtaining a majority in the Legislative Council, Hong Kong’s 70-seat parliament, due to continued strong popular support.
Authorities in Beijing are now discussing ways to modify Hong Kong’s electoral system to address “deficiencies” in the political structure, the Chinese representative added, and the elections could thus be further postponed.
The second pro-Beijing source confirmed that advanced discussions were being held on structural changes to be made to the political system in Hong Kong, such as the possibility of reducing the influence of pro-democracy elected officials in the electoral commission composed of 1,200 members. responsible for appointing the next leader of the territory in 2022.
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