Hong Kong sets Dec 19 as Legco election date, pushes China-backed overhaul

The series of amendments will dramatically alter Hong Kong's already-limited elections. PHOTO: REUTERS

HONG KONG (BLOOMBERG) - Hong Kong will hold its Legislative Council election on Dec 19 after delaying the vote by more than a year because of the pandemic, a move that allows the government to push through changes that give China a veto over any pro-democracy politician.

Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam announced the changes on Tuesday (April 13), after she said her advisory Executive Council approved a Bill to implement China's plan to overhaul the city's elections.

The new rules will also make it illegal to organise public activities that incite others to not vote, cast blank votes or cast invalid ballots, Mrs Lam said.

Her government can now introduce a Bill in the Legislative Council featuring various amendments ordered up by China's top legislative body. The changes, which will dramatically alter Hong Kong's already-limited elections, need Lam's administration to change local laws.

"All we have to do is reflect these details in local legislation," Mrs Lam told reporters in a news conference on Tuesday afternoon, noting that the English version of the Bill is around 600 pages.

Earlier Tuesday, Mrs Lam said she wouldn't prevent voters from casting blank ballots but that the situation would be different if "some people organise or intentionally incite voters collectively to do certain acts".

This may involve acts that undermine or manipulate elections, which the Hong Kong government is required to regulate under the decision handed down by China, she said.

China's broader plan to change Hong Kong's elections, which were first approved by the National People's Congress Standing Committee on March 12, also established a "review committee" to vet any candidate for office to ensure they are patriots loyal to the Communist Party in Beijing.

"We don't want to see anything done to undermine elections," Ms Teresa Cheng, the city's justice secretary, said at the briefing.

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