The Chinese Communist Party cemented its control over Hong Kong's elections on Tuesday, approving rules that will effectively ban pro-democracy candidates from running for public office.
Under the law, any candidate will have to seek approval from a Beijing-controlled qualification review board in order to seek election. The board will reportedly work with China's Ministry of State Security to vet prospective candidates and determine if they are sufficiently "patriotic" for public office.
Chinese officials have clarified that "patriotism" in this context is defined by devotion to the CCP.
"When we talk about patriotism, we are not talking about the abstraction of loving a cultural or historical China, but rather loving the currently existing People's Republic of China under the leadership of the Chinese Communist Party," Song Ru'an, deputy commissioner of China's Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Hong Kong, said last week, according to CNN.
The new laws also expand the number of seats on Hong Kong's legislature from 70 to 90, while significantly reducing the ratio of publicly elected spots. The public will be permitted to elect just 20 members; another 30 will be elected by pro-Beijing trade and industry groups, and 40 will be chosen by a Beijing-dominated "Election Committee."
The electoral changes were approved unanimously by the Standing Committee of the National People's Congress. The new rules were expected to go into effect as part of China's ongoing crackdown on Hong Kong's relative autonomy and individual freedoms. Beijing's violent suppression of speech rights—under the guise of "national security" laws—prompted widespread protests in 2020.
"All candidates in the Hong Kong Legislative Council elections now have to be vetted by the National Security Bureau," wrote Nathan Law, a London-based Hong Kong democracy activist, on Twitter. "There will be no opposition voice in the council hereafter. The freedoms in Hong Kong are dead, and now the elections."