12/21/2021 Hong Kong (International Christian Concern) – On Sunday, Hong Kong held its legislative general election, originally scheduled for September of 2020, though postponed due to the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic – a move which many saw as an affront to the ongoing democracy movement’s momentum sweeping the City-State last summer. Sunday’s election resulted in a massive sweep of the legislative council by pro-Beijing parties, an indicator of the Chinese Communist Party’s (CCP) growing grip over the once autonomous city.
This was the first election since the Chinese-backed National Security Law (NSL) came into effect, followed by sweeping electoral changes which reduced the number of directly elected seats and expanded the candidates selected by a Beijing-backed electoral committee. The electoral changes saw the Hong Kong Legislative Council expanded from 70 seats to 90 seats, with 40 of those seats to be decided on by the Beijing-backed Election Committee – this makes up the largest block of the legislative council. The election was also heavily affected by the NSL of 2020, which saw many of the city’s pro-democracy advocates and potential candidates either arrested, in exile, or weary of getting involved out of fear of the of becoming a target of the NSL – leaving the field heavily dominated by pro-Beijing loyalists.
Given these factors, the election was termed the “Patriots Only” election, as the new conditions for voters and candidates meant that only those patriotic to the Chinese mainland would be expected to have a voice. This resulted in a record low turnout on Sunday, where pro-Beijing parties won 89 of the 90 seats.
This electoral sweep by the pro-Beijing parties is a critical indicator of Beijing’s increasing dominance over Hong Kong, a factor which will continue to erode its basic freedoms and former autonomy from CCP control. Under this new electorate, the region will continue to develop a cozy relationship with the mainland, which will likely see China’s hardline positions, including its regulation of religious groups, seep into Hong Kong.
Churches in China are already being viewed through the lens of national security, and this same approach should be expected in Hong Kong’s future, where the CCP is already showing paranoia around political dissent and influence from foreign powers. The NSL already gives Beijing an entirely vague authority to charge individuals with crimes of subversion, secession, terrorism, and collusion with foreign powers – four intentionally ill-defined rules made to target anyone Beijing finds a threat. This style of enforcement is already used against religious minorities in the mainland. Understanding the risks, many Christian ministers have begun to flee Hong Kong for fear of the CCP encroachment.
As China continues to establish control over Hong Kong, its crackdown on dissenters will not end with politics alone. The new pro-Beijing majority gives China near unlimited influence in Hong Kong, increasing Beijing’ power – a factor which will expand the same authoritarian governance seen by the NSL, making conditions for Christians in Hong Kong equally as dire as on the mainland.