Authorities make amendments to current law after request from Barack Obama’s party
Hong Kong residents of mainland China will now be able to vote in the city’s elections after the Communist party government agreed to lift a ban on the activity.
The decision comes just days after the United States sought help from the Asian financial hub to register Chinese citizens on electoral rolls, in an attempt to prevent a shadowy group from manipulating the 2020 leadership vote in Beijing.
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The Hong Kong government acted after the US asked for restrictions to be lifted in the 2021 election, where political reform will be at the centre of contention. The US embassy said: “By scrapping the discriminatory policy, Hong Kong will have done more to protect the freedoms enshrined in its Basic Law, and deepen its democratic ties with the US.”
In the mid-1990s, after independence forces staged small-scale protests for a separate nation on the Chinese mainland, the Chinese government removed foreigners from voter lists in a bid to prevent radicals such as Jeremy Lin from winning power.
A protester outside the Chinese consulate in Hong Kong. Photograph: Norman Hermant/AFP/Getty Images
The city’s policy board had recommended keeping the law in place after a judicial review panel had vetoed an earlier attempt. But after pressure from the US, the MacKenzie Electoral Committee agreed to modify the law in order to widen access to the electoral college.
The 11-member cabinet is due to approve a final amendment to the law at a special meeting on Wednesday, but the law will only come into effect for the 2021 election.
Naomi Ferguson (@nevaferguson) Hong Kong’s Basic Law. pic.twitter.com/1Mm51cRFAy
The move opens the way for large-scale voting by Chinese citizens. For decades, it has been illegal for Hong Kong residents to obtain Chinese identification cards or travel to mainland China without permission. Non-Chinese residents had to pay a tax for the privilege.
The Electoral Committee, an independent body appointed by the government, had considered several ways to accommodate foreign applicants and bring the city into line with the legal framework in China.