Hong Kong Legislature “For Patriots Only” Calls First Session
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The Hong Kong legislature has met for the first time since last month’s elections, which were held under new legislation ensuring that only “patriots” who have proven their loyalty to Beijing can stand as candidates.
The 90-seat Legislative Council, known as LegCo, is now completely dominated by Beijing’s allies. Opposition figures are in prison, in exile or have been intimidated and silenced, and independent media have been forced to shut down.
Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam opened Wednesday’s session, using the opportunity to criticize former lawmakers who she said were “anti-China and who tried to destabilize Hong Kong, tried to politicize board business and made it difficult for LegCo to fully exercise its functions. . “
Since the expulsion or resignation of opposition lawmakers, the council has enjoyed a “fruitful year marked by a constructive and interactive relationship between the LegCo and the executive authorities with remarkable achievements,” said Lam, who along with several members of his government, is under a visa ban in the United States.
The elections had been postponed for a year – apparently due to a spike in COVID-19 cases – after the opposition swept the elections for district councilors.
They followed widespread and increasingly violent anti-government protests in 2019 that prompted Beijing to impose a sweeping national security law on Hong Kong, followed by a reorganization of the electoral process and a transformation of the membership. of the Legislative Council to stack it with the pro-Beijing. loyalists.
Some pro-democracy activists abroad, including London-based Nathan Law, called for a boycott of the vote, saying the elections were undemocratic. Under the new election laws, incitement to boycott or invalidate votes can be punishable by up to three years in prison and a fine of HK $ 200,000 ($ 26,500 ).
The session opened as Hong Kong grapples with a new wave of COVID-19 infections linked to the global spread of the omicron variant.
Twenty lawmakers skipped the opening session after joining a big birthday party that raised fears of a new omicron cluster when a guest tested positive for the coronavirus.
Hong Kong also closed kindergartens and elementary schools after infections were found among students, banned flights from the United States and seven other countries, and detained 2,500 passengers on a cruise ship for coronavirus testing on Wednesday as the city tries to stem the emerging omicron outbreak.
Lam appeared to rule out imposing a new lockdown at this time.
“If we want a stricter approach, we can only stay at home – it can only be done with a curfew,” Lam said. “Today, I don’t think we are at the stage where we need to apply tougher measures to deal with the pandemic.”
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