Hong Kong to cut elected council seats in blow to democracy

HONG KONG — Hong Kong’s leader on Tuesday, May 2, 2023, stepped up a campaign to shut down further democratic challenges by unveiling plans to eliminate most directly elected seats on local district councils, the last major political representative bodies chosen by the public.

Chief Executive John Lee said the proposed overhaul will reduce the proportion of directly elected seats in the municipal-level organization to about 20 percent—from some 90 percent currently. That is even lower than the level when these bodies were first set up in the 1980s, when Hong Kong was ruled by Britain.

He said the rest of the 470 seats will be filled by government appointees, rural committee chairpersons and others elected by local committees that are staffed by many pro-establishment figures.

“I do not agree that pure counting (of) election votes mean democracy,” he said. “Different places have their own systems that must take into consideration all the characteristics and all the elements of that place.”

The planned electoral changes are widely seen as part of Beijing’s increasing control over the former British colony, which was promised autonomy when it returned to China in 1997.

Two years ago, Hong Kong already amended its electoral laws for its legislature, drastically reducing the public’s ability to vote and increasing the number of pro-Beijing lawmakers making decisions for the city. / AP