Hong Kong is going to make it a criminal offence to campaign to boycott elections. Violators face a prison sentence of up to three years, authorities in the Chinese metropolis report.
The measure follows the Chinese rulers’ decision to radically overhaul the electoral system in the formally autonomous Hong Kong. Beijing has taken all kinds of measures that make it possible to sideline troubled opposition members.
For example, a committee that is seen as pro-Beijing will soon be allowed to select a large number of parliamentarians in the metropolis. Voters have nothing to say about that. It is also checked whether candidates have the correct political views.
In Hong Kong’s local parliament, the pro-Beijing camp is already in charge. Members of the pro-democracy opposition left en masse at the end of last year. They were angry because several colleagues had to surrender their seats by order of the government.
Residents who want to organize protests in future elections can get into trouble with the authorities. It will not be punishable for citizens to boycott elections themselves but to encourage others to do the same. Such a punishable call can take all kinds of forms. Justice Minister Teresa Cheng cited the hanging of a flag as an example. The ban still has to be approved by the local parliament, which is considering it this week.
The city’s chief executive, Carrie Lam, spoke of measures against “manipulating and damaging” the elections. “We are going to prohibit people from publicly calling others not to vote or to vote blank or to cast invalid votes.”