CHINA’S PARLIAMENT ENDORSES TIGHTER CONTROL OVER HONG KONG
China’s ceremonial legislature on Thursday, March 11, 2021, endorsed the Communist Party’s plan to tighten control of Hong Kong by overhauling the city’s electoral system, Simina Mistreanu reported for Deutsche Presse-Agentur (dpa).
The National People’s Congress endorsed a plan to "improve" Hong Kong’s electoral system by giving a pro-Beijing committee power to appoint more of the city’s lawmakers, reducing the public’s role in the government.
The move – meant to ensure that "only patriots govern Hong Kong" – comes a year after Beijing approved a national security law that has basically criminalized dissent in the financial hub, leading to dozens of arrests.
The same law has been slammed globally as a subversion of the agreement with the United Kingdom to respect Hong Kong’s autonomy until 2047. Beijing has dismissed the treaty governing the handover as a mere scrap of paper. The plan passed with 2,895 votes for, no votes against, and one abstention on the last day of the annual parliamentary session.
The parliament also approved the country’s five-year plan for economic development, which passed with 2,873 votes for, 11 votes against, and 12 abstentions. The plan aims to steer China toward achieving technological self-reliance while boosting domestic consumption and relying less on exports of lower quality goods.
The new direction comes after a years-long trade war with the US that saw the US curb technology exports to China and has challenged the country's status as the world's factory.
"We will give priority to domestic circulation and work to build a strong domestic market and turn China into a trader of quality," Premier Li Keqiang said last Friday. At the heart of the new plan is increased innovation in key sectors such as telecommunications, clean energy, and electric vehicles. The party sees "science and technology providing strategic support for China's development," Li said.
Li also announced an economic growth target of "over 6 percent" for 2021. China’s coronavirus-battered economy grew 2.3 percent last year, the only major world economy to have expanded in 2020. The parliament also approved a 6.8 percent rise in China’s military budget as part of the central and local governments’ budget plan for 2021. The budget was approved with 2,843 votes for, 36 votes against, and 17 abstentions.