A China-backed newspaper on Tuesday warned that Hong Kong would have to leave behind any notion of “Western” democracy, suggesting that the ruling Chinese Communist Party (CCP) is planning to further tighten its grip on the city’s political life amid an ongoing crackdown on dissent.
In an article titled “Leaving behind the myth of Western democracy: consultative elections to comply with Basic Law,” the CCP-backed Ta Kung Pao newspaper suggested a “consultative” process with even less public involvement may be implemented in future.
It said the current method of choosing the city’s chief executive could still result in the election of a candidate with political views not approved by Beijing.
Currently, the chief executive is selected by a 1,200 election committee that was once overwhelmingly pro-Beijing.
But a landslide victory for pro-democracy parties in the 2019 District Council elections may have rung alarm bells among Chinese leaders, as District Councils — once overwhelmingly pro-China — are represented on the committee.
Asked about the article on Tuesday, chief executive Carrie Lam didn’t appear to rule out the possibility of an even more tightly controlled process for choosing the chief executive.
Lam said the current wording in the city’s Basic Law didn’t allow for such a process, but didn’t deny it was a possibility.
“Annex 1 [of the Basic Law] would need to be amended, if the chief executive were to be selected through consultation,” Lam said.
“Hong Kong … is directly accountable to the Central People’s Government, no matter which method is used in the end,” she said. “So they would ultimately decide [on the method].”
Lam’s term in office ends in just over one year, and speculation has been mounting among pro-China politicians over the method Beijing will eventually settle on to pick her successor.
In another possible indicator of Beijing’s determination to take fuller control over Hong Kong, the CCP’s Hong Kong and Macao Affairs Office announced the appointment of a key ally of general secretary Xi Jinping to head the party’s disciplinary arm in the office, suggesting a possible purge of high-ranking officials in the office.
Shi Kehui, 59, will head the office’s branch of the Central Commission for Discipline Inspection (CCDI), which spearheads Xi’s anti-corruption campaign, which political analysts say usually targets officials not directly linked to Xi’s own faction within the party.
Meanwhile, police are reportedly scouring the banking records of pro-democracy activists and supporters of the 2019 protest movement, according to a report from Reuters.
Six pro-democracy activists told the news agency that Hong Kong police had obtained some of their bank records without their consent and questioned them about certain transactions following their arrests earlier this month on suspicion of “subversion” under a draconian national security law imposed on the city from July 1, 2020.
The number of requests for customers’ financial records by Hong Kong police has more than doubled over the past six months or so, the report quoted an executive at a major retail bank in Hong Kong with direct knowledge of the matter as saying.
They said the increase was due to requests for information about pro-democracy activists.
The increasing use of bank records in questioning activists shows that Hong Kong’s national security police are using the full extent of their powers to investigate people under the law, the report said, citing requests made to HSBC, Hang Seng Bank, Citibank and Standard Chartered.
Representatives of those banks declined to comment on individual accounts, Reuters reported.
Reported by RFA’s Cantonese Service. Translated and edited by Luisetta Mudie.