Blinken: HK poll revamp won’t bring stability

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken has accused Beijing of continuing to undermine democratic institutions in Hong Kong and called on central government and SAR authorities to release and drop charges against everyone charged under the national security law.

He made the remarks in a statement on Thursday, hours after lawmakers voted through a raft of changes to support Beijing’s sweeping overhaul of the SAR’s electoral system. Mainland and local leaders have consistently condemned overseas politicians for interfering in the SAR’s affars.

Blinken said altering the composition of the legislature “severely constrains people in Hong Kong from meaningfully participating in their own governance and having their voices heard.”

“Decreasing Hong Kong  residents’ electoral representation will  not  foster long-term political and social stability for Hong Kong,” he added.

“This legislation defies the Basic Law’s clear acknowledgment that the ultimate objective is the election of all members of the Legco by universal suffrage. 

“The United States stands united with our allies and partners in speaking out for the human rights and fundamental freedoms guaranteed to the people in Hong Kong by the Sino-British Joint Declaration and the Basic Law.”

Earlier, Chief Executive Carrie Lam took aim at overseas politicians and international media for criticising the electoral reforms.

“Those misplaced comments and their ulterior motives were very much what had been seen in their unjustified criticisms against the National Security Law,” she said in a statement.

Under the reforms, the number of seats in Legco will grow from 70 to 90, but at the same time the number of legislators picked by the public will fall from 40 – including the five district council ‘superseats’ – to 20.

The election committee that selects Hong Kong’s top local leader will choose 40 members of the legislature, and there will be 30 seats filled by functional constituencies. The election committee will also swell, adding another 300 places to 1,500.

Other legal amendments mean it will be a crime for anyone to encourage others to boycott an election or cast blank or spoiled ballots, with offenders risking up to three years in prison. (Reuters/RTHK)