Tens of thousands of Hongkongers are expected to flee in search of new lives in the UK and Australia after China yesterday approved a drastic overhaul of election rules in the city state.
Beijing’s parliament unanimously approved new legislation that will give China the power to “veto” Hong Kong election candidates “deemed unpatriotic” - making it “almost impossible for democracy activists to run for office”, The Times reports.
A senior Chinese official told the paper that alongside new security laws that came into effect last year, the electoral reform represents a “combination of punches” intended to flatten dissention in the region.
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The newly passed legislation has been condemned Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab as “the latest step by Beijing to hollow out the space for democratic debate in Hong Kong, contrary to the promises made by China itself”.
“This can only further undermine confidence and trust in China,” he added in a statement released after Beijing’s National People’s Congress passed the rule changes by a vote of 2,895 to zero, with one abstention.
Joe Biden’s administration has also “intensified its criticism of Beijing’s clampdown”, the Financial Times reports. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said the US would continue to impose sanctions on China in response to the bid to “quash” democracy.
The crackdown is expected to intensify the exodus from Hong Kong that began when the security laws came into effect last July. Around 130,000 people quit the city in the following six months, according to immigration data cited by Chinese and Hong Kong media.
About 5,000 Hongkongers applied to live and work in the UK after visa programme changes were made in late January to ease the way for people in the Asian financial hub to be granted entry. And the government expects that total to rise to 300,000 eventually.
The expected influx is likely to be imminent, amid “fears that Beijing will soon bar dissidents from leaving”, says The Times.
The Australian government has also told the approximately 100,000 Hongkongers with Australian passports “to consider moving because Beijing may no longer recognise them as dual citizens under the national security law”, the paper adds.
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