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Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (SAR) - Government

Hong Kong, with an estimated 6,940,432 people (as of July 2006), has a partly popularly elected legislature and operates under the Basic Law, which embodies the principle of “one country, two systems” and states that the socialist system and policies shall not be practiced in Hong Kong; Hong Kong’s previous capitalist system and lifestyle are to remain unchanged until 2047. The Basic Law of the Hong Kong SAR was adopted on April 4, 1990, by the National People’s Congress (NPC) and came into effect on July 1, 1997.

China's National People's Congress passed new election rules for Hong Kong to ensure pro-Beijing forces can win the vote there. It's no longer a democracy, it just looks like one. China's Communist Party leaders and political theorists have never lacked imagination when it comes to making the impossible possible. In a bid to legitimize autocracy, they created new ideas that are full of contradictions. The Basic Law had a catch: The charter does provide for direct and general elections to elect the territory's parliament and chief executive, but it doesn't set a time frame for it to happen. This has given Beijing room to maneuver.

Since Hong Kong came under Chinese control, Beijing has prevented popular sovereignty in the territory. This was because only half of the 70-member city parliament was directly elected; the other half was appointed by selected community and social groups. The election of the chief executive must be confirmed by a Beijing-friendly commission. The next legislative elections were scheduled for September, after they were delayed by a year due to the coronavirus pandemic. And the next chief executive election would be in 2022.

The new resolution, passed on 11 March 2021 with 2,895 votes in favor, 0 against and one abstention, stipulates that all candidates for the upcoming parliamentary elections, as well as candidates for the chief executive, will be screened for attitudes and approved by the same Beijing-friendly commission. This was to ensure that all candidates for office are "patriots." To pick up on the propaganda's choice of words, "people who love the country rule Hong Kong."

The changes passed 30 March 2021 by the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress and signed into law by President Xi Jinping include the creation of a special committee that will review the qualifications of potential candidates to ensure Hong Kong is governed by so-called “patriots.” The new rules would also reduce the number of directly elected lawmakers to the city’s Legislative Council, while expanding the total number of seats from 70 to 90, as well expanding the number of members on Hong Kong’s electoral commission that selects the city’s chief executive from 1,200 to 1,500. The electoral changes were praised by Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam, who said bringing in more “patriots” into the legislature means that the “excessive politicization in society and the internal rift that has torn Hong Kong apart can be effectively mitigated.” Lam said the next legislative elections under the new system will be held in December 2021. The city was scheduled to hold Legislative Council elections in September 2020, but they were postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

On 19 December 2021 Hong Kongers snubbed a legislature poll taking place under new "patriots only" rules imposed by China, with the lowest turnout since residents here started electing lawmakers three decades ago, according to official figures. Only 30 percent, or 1,350,680 of the 4,472,863 registered voters, cast their ballots for city lawmakers in the poll, Hong Kong's top election official, Barnabas Fung, told reporters.

The new rules, which drastically reduce the number of directly elected seats and control who can run for office, were dictated by Beijing in response to massive and often violent pro-democracy protests two years ago. All candidates had been vetted for their patriotism and political loyalty to China and only 20 of the 90 legislature seats were being directly elected. The largest chunk of seats – 40 – were being picked by a committee of 1,500 staunch Beijing loyalists. The remaining 30 were chosen by reliably pro-Beijing committees that represent special-interest and industry groups.

The Chief Executive was chosen by an 800-person selection committee [later increased to 1,200 members] composed of individuals who are either directly elected, indirectly elected, or appointed. The Chief Executive supervises a cabinet of principal officers whom he appoints.

The power of the Legislative Council (legislature or LegCo) was significantly circumscribed by the Basic Law. The legislature was composed of 24 directly elected members representing geographic districts, 30 indirectly elected members representing “small circle” functional (occupational) constituencies, and 6 members elected indirectly by an election committee. Majorities are required in both the geographic and the functional constituencies to pass legislation introduced by individual legislators. Members may not initiate legislation involving public expenditure, political structure, government operations, or government policy.

A portion of the LegCo was elected by a subset of voters representing “functional constituencies” (FCs) that speak for key economic and social sectors. Under this structure some individuals were able to control multiple votes for LegCo members. The constituencies that elected the 30 FC LegCo seats had fewer voters in total than the constituency for a single geographical constituency (GC) seat, of which there were 30 in the LegCo. Beginning in September 2012, voters were able to elect five newly created FC seats in the district council sector, known as “super seats.” These five LegCo members were elected by voters who were not otherwise represented in any FC.

Hong Kong retains the British Common Law tradition. By law and tradition, the judiciary was independent and the Basic Law vests Hong Kong's highest court with the power of final adjudication; however, under the Basic Law, the Standing Committee of the PRC's National People's Congress (NPC) has the power of final interpretation of the Basic Law.

It maintains its own currency, the Hong Kong dollar, and its cherished civil liberties, such as freedom of the press and freedom of religion. Its official languages are Chinese and English. As a separate economic entity, the Hong Kong SAR was an active and separate member of the World Trade Organization and APEC. It maintains three Economic and Trade Offices (ETOs) in the U.S., namely in Washington D.C.; New York and San Francisco. The ETOs are responsible for strengthening Hong Kong’s economic, trade, investment, and cultural ties with its trading partners.

The law provides for freedom of speech and press, and the government generally respected these rights. An independent press, an effective judiciary, and a generally supportive government combined to promote freedom of speech and of the press. Nevertheless, there were complaints lodged by free media groups about what they viewed as increasing challenges in this area. The law provides for freedom of assembly and association, and the government generally respected these rights.

The government routinely issued the required “letter of no objection” for public meetings and demonstrations, and the overwhelming majority of protests occurred without serious incident. Government statistics indicated that an average of seven to eight “public events” occurred every day. A wide variety of domestic and international human rights groups generally operated without government restriction, investigating and publishing their findings on human rights cases. Government officials generally were cooperative and responsive to their views. Prominent human rights activists critical of the central government also operated freely and maintained permanent resident status in the SAR.

There are around 3.6 million British passport-holders in Hong Kong, 3.44 million of whom are British Nationals (Overseas) (BN(O)s). BN(O) passport holders enjoy British consular protection in third countries (and, for non-Chinese BN(O) passport holders, in Hong Kong and mainland China), as well as visa-free access to the UK for visits of less than six months. The UK Consulate-General in Hong Kong was the largest British consulate in the world - bigger than most British embassies - and it includes the largest British passport-issuing operation outside the UK.

US policy toward Hong Kong was stated in the U.S.-Hong Kong Policy Act of 1992 and grounded in the determination to promote Hong Kong's prosperity, autonomy, and way of life. The United States maintains substantial economic and political interests in Hong Kong. The U.S. supports Hong Kong's autonomy under the "One Country, Two Systems" framework by concluding and implementing bilateral agreements; promoting trade and investment; broadening law enforcement cooperation; bolstering educational, academic, and cultural links; supporting high-level visits of U.S. officials; and serving the large community of U.S. citizens and visitors. The United States enjoys substantial economic and social ties with Hong Kong. U.S. companies have a generally favorable view of Hong Kong's business environment, including its legal system and the free flow of information, low taxation, and infrastructure. There are some 1,400 U.S. firms, including 869 regional operations (333 regional headquarters and 536 regional offices), and over 60,000 American residents in Hong Kong.

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Page last modified: 24-12-2021 18:52:28 ZULU