This is translated from CitizenNews' weekly digest tracking Hong Kong's political news over the past week. （一周政情：一國兩制失敗收場 港人治港已成泡影）
In the past week, the most prominent political news is that the National People's Congress (NPC) has passed the amendment of the two annexes to the Hong Kong Basic Law. The changes include changing the method of selecting the Chief Executive and the Legislative Council (LegCo), adding a patriot constituency to the CE Election Committee (EC) and tightening the restrictions on nominations. There is also a drastic reduction in the proportion of directly elected seats in LegCo by geographical constituencies, restores the clique EC seats from the early years after the handover, and subjects all candidates to political vetting before and after the election. G7, the European Union, Australia and New Zealand have issued statements criticising the reform for undermining One Country, Two Systems and undermining democratic freedoms, while Taiwan's former President Ma Ying-jeou said that the NPC's decision marks the official passing into history of the concept of One Country, Two Systems proposed by Deng Xiaoping in 1984.
The amendments to Hong Kong's political system passed by the NPC contain four key points:
(1) The number of members of the Chief Executive Election Committee was increased from 1,200 to 1,500, with one additional sector added to the original four, comprising Hong Kong delegates to the National People's Congress, Hong Kong deputies of the National Committee of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference, and Hong Kong members of national organizations (such as the All-China Women's Federation, the Youth Federation, and the Federation of Industry and Commerce).
(2) Changes to the nomination procedures for the Chief Executive. Apart from requiring nominations by one-eighth of the total number of members (150 at present, 188 in future), a new requirement has been added, requiring nominations by at least 15 members in each of the five sectors and the endorsement of half of the Election Committee at the same time.
(3) The number of LegCo seats will be increased from 70 to 90, and there will be three types of seats: EC, Functional Constituency and Geographical Constituency. At the same time, nominations for the Legislative Council election shall be made by the EC.
(4) A new candidate qualification review committee (or in short, vetting panel) will be set up to replace the Returning Officer in conducting qualification checks on candidates to ensure compliance with the Basic Law, the National Security Law and the NPC's decision on interpretation of the Basic Law.
Although some of the details of the reform, such as the specific composition and operation of the EC and the proportion of the three methods of forming the Legislative Council, have yet to be defined by further legislation, the framework set out by the NPC is quite clear: in the process of selecting the Chief Executive and the Legislative Council, a large number of so-called "staunch patriots" preordained by Beijing will be introduced to control the elections, so as to ensure that only candidates with Beijing's consent will be able to enter the election. There will be no more John Tsangs who dare to defy Beijing and challenge Carrie Lam in the future. The proportion of directly elected seats in the Legislative Council will also be reduced from the current slightly over half (apart from the 35 directly elected seats in geographical constituencies (GCs), the five "super DC seats" are also directly elected by the public) to one-third or even 22% (if the EC takes up 40 seats, 20 seats will be directly elected). If the opposition wants to stand for election, they must pass a patriotic vetting test.
After this change, the elections of the Chief Executive and the Legislative Council are no longer led by Hong Kong public opinion, but by people appointed by Beijing. The so-called election has been completely changed. Three decades of democratic development since the introduction of representative government in Hong Kong in the mid-1980s have now been wiped out in one fell swoop. The goal of constitutional development as stipulated in the Basic Law, that is, gradual and orderly progress towards dual universal suffrage, has not yet been formally amended, but has in fact been shelved - not to mention the inability to achieve gradual and orderly progress, it is in fact a drastic retrogression, with the democratic elements even worse than at the early stage of the handover.
How do the Beijing authorities explain this big, backward move in the political system? Zhang Xiaoming, Deputy Director of the Hong Kong and Macao Affairs Office, met with the press in Beijing the next day after the NPC passed the amendment. He said that the amendment was not a question of the pace of democracy, but a contest between seizure of power and counter-seizure of power, subversion and counter-subversion, and infiltration and counter-infiltration, and that "on this issue, we have no room for concession". This explanation makes it clear that Beijing sees constitutional change as a measure for political stability to prevent seizure of power, subversion and infiltration, and that it can be achieved at any cost, without any room for concession. Since this is the case, whether Hong Kong people accept it, whether it will trigger an exodus of talents, what public opinion abroad will say, and whether it will lead to more sanctions, are not the considerations of Beijing officials and will not affect Beijing's decision.
The response of the Hong Kong community to this amendment to the NPC law has been rather lukewarm, probably because since mid-2020, when Beijing directly enacted the national security law for Hong Kong, political upheavals have become a reality, and all kinds of political persecution, score-settling, reshuffling and changes to the game rules have been going on day after day. Overhauling the electoral system now only reaffirms Beijing's intention to manipulate Hong Kong's governance on all fronts. Hongkongers have grown numb to this and no longer have any hope for the beautiful promises of a democratic political system and Hong Kong people ruling Hong Kong.
In contrast, the international community has reacted more strongly, with condemnation statements from the United States, Britain, Australia, New Zealand and other countries being quite sharply worded. It is particularly noteworthy that the European Union, which has just signed a bilateral agreement on investment and trade with China, has also issued a strongly worded condemnation. The EU described the NPC's decision as another violation of the One Country, Two Systems principle, a breach of international commitments and a violation of the Hong Kong Basic Law. The EU called on the Chinese authorities to "end the persecution of those who advocate democratic values" and said that at the Foreign Affairs Committee meeting on 22 February, EU foreign ministers had agreed to a series of long-term and short-term actions, in addition to the package of measures taken last July. In response to the latest NPC resolution, the EU will also consider additional action and increased attention to Hong Kong as part of the overall relationship between the EU and China. The bilateral agreement between the EU and China has yet to be approved by the EU Parliament, which may see a stillbirth due to global criticism over Xinjiang and Hong Kong.