Electoral changes in Hong Kong necessary for city's stability: China foreign minister

Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi said an emphasis on patriotism is "justified and reasonable". PHOTO: EPA-EFE

BEIJING - Changes to Hong Kong's electoral system are necessary to maintain the city's long-term stability, said China's top diplomat on Sunday (March 7).

When asked regarding criticism of Beijing's proposed changes to Hong Kong's electoral system, Foreign Minister Wang Yi said an emphasis on patriotism is "justified and reasonable".

"Looking at the world, no matter which country you are in, allegiance to your homeland is a basic political ethic that public officials and candidates for public office must observe," he said.

"If you're not patriotic, how can you talk about a love for Hong Kong? Loving Hong Kong and patriotism are the same."

Mr Wang was speaking at his annual press conference during China's parliamentary season known as the "Two Sessions".

On Friday, Chinese lawmakers proposed changes to Hong Kong's electoral commission and in the way the chief executive and legislators are elected, with an emphasis on patriotism.

According to a summary of the draft proposal presented to the National People's Congress, Hong Kong's Electoral Committee, which is responsible for picking the chief executive, will now also be responsible for picking a "large share" of Legislative Council (LegCo) members while being involved in the nomination process of all candidates.

The proposal will be discussed in the coming days and voted on March 11.

The proposed changes, which come barely a year after a sweeping national security law was introduced on June 30 last year, are yet another blow to the city's hopes for democracy.

The United States on Friday called China's moves to change the Hong Kong electoral system a direct attack on its autonomy and democratic processes, saying the measures would "dramatically undermine Hong Kong democratic institutions".

But Mr Wang hit back at criticism, saying the moves are meant to enhance the "one country, two systems" framework by which the territory is governed.

"During the colonial period in Hong Kong, there was no democracy at all," he said.

"In the 24 years since reunification, no one cares more about the development of democracy in Hong Kong than the central government, and hopes that Hong Kong will maintain its prosperity and stability."

Join ST's Telegram channel and get the latest breaking news delivered to you.