UK foreign secretary Dominic Raab accuses Beijing of hollowing out the space for democratic debate

Chinas rubber stamping parliamentary body has unanimously bar one abstention and to sustained and loud applause approved new laws ensuring that only people it deems patriots can govern Hong Kong, in a move critics say signals the end of the citys remaining autonomy.
The final meeting of the National Peoples Congress (NPC) at the annual two sessions political gathering also approved new domestic amendments and budgets, and the 14th five-year-plan, intended to strengthen and expand Chinas domestic technology industry and market, and reach new GDP and population targets amid economic uncertainty and declining birth rates.
In a formal vote the almost 3,000 NPC delegates approved a decision to amend Hong Kongs mini constitution, the basic law, and the electoral system to ensure that people opposed to the Chinese Communistparty and its rule over Hong Kong are ineligible to sit in the citys parliament.
The UKs foreign minister, Dominic Raab, was quick to criticise the move. This is the latest step by Beijing to hollow out the space for democratic debate in Hong Kong, contrary to the promises made by China itself, he said. This can only further undermine confidence and trust in China living up to its international responsibilities and legal obligations as a leading member of the international community.
According to Chinese state media, the decision will increase the number of seats in Hong Kongs legislature from 70 to 90, and the election committee charged with choosing a chief executive from 1,200 to 1,500. The published details did not say where the extra 20 seats would come from. Hong Kongs legislature currently includes 35 directly elected legislators, and 35 from mostly pro-Beijing representative constituencies.
The changes will also establish a vetting panel responsible for reviewing and confirming the qualifications of committee and political political candidates in line with the national security law and basic law.
Early media reports cited unnamed sources as saying the panel would be made up of some of the most pro-Beijing members of Hong Kongs political elite, including delegates to the NPC and the Chinese Peoples Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC).
The meeting made the decision to approve the electoral system in Hong Kong, and won the approval from all deputies, including those from Hong Kong, said the chair of the NPC standing committee, Li Zhanshu. The decision will now go to the standing committee for further processing before it is promulgated.
In the past year new laws and regulations in Hong Kong, including a draconian national security law and a concerted campaign of protest-related prosecutions, have resulted in almost every significant voice of opposition being in jail, on trial or in exile overseas.
The changes have drawn international condemnation. The US secretary of state, Antony Blinken, told Congress on Wednesday that the Biden administration would follow through on sanctions against those responsible for committing repressive acts in Hong Kong. The US and other countries have repeatedly objected to the crackdown with little effect.
Hong Kongs government has welcomed the Beijing crackdown, including Thursdays changes. Its chief executive, Carrie Lam, said on Tuesday that the decision was timely, necessary, lawful and constitutional, and that the leadership and decision making-power of Beijing were out of the question.
After the NPC vote an editorial in the state mouthpiece, Xinhua, praised the approval and said in some sense, Beijing had no choice.
Anti-China, destabilising forces and radical localists in Hong Kong have manipulated the electoral system to enter the governance structure pushed for their secessionist agenda, repeatedly challenged the central governments authority, it said, adding that reckless foreign intervention also warranted the change.
Hostile forces overseas have intensified their efforts to stoke color revolutions in the Chinese city, seeking to turn it into an outpost to contain Chinas development, it said. No central government would tolerate such chaos or ignore outside disruptors running amok on its soil.