China's Two Sessions: What will this meeting of parliament mean for Hong Kong and democracy?

Credit: AP

A man we spoke to on his way to work in Beijing this morning told us ‘’Communism is great’’ while a woman we approached said life is “getting better and better” thanks to President Xi. We were asking people for their thoughts as China’s annual political gathering got underway in the capital. This year’s rubber-stamp assembly, known as the Two Sessions, has been described as the most important in a generation.

In 2021, China will roll-out its new five-year plan for government and it will celebrate 100 years of the Communist Party.

Chinese Premier Li Keqiang speaks during the opening session of China’s National People’s Congress. Credit: Andy Wong/AP

Consistency and stability are being hailed as the factors which have helped it - unlike the rest of the world - beat back Covid-19 and become the only major economy to record growth in the last 12 months.

The President this month also claimed ‘’total victory’’ in his campaign to eradicate poverty, with 800 million people said to have been lifted above the breadline. But amid the confident predictions set today for the economy and tackling climate change, it was an announcement to gain further control of Hong Kong’s electoral system which drew much attention and alarm.

Police officers use sniffer dogs to check on Tiananmen Square before China's National People's Congress Credit: AP Photo/Andy Wong

China has officially moved to ensure Hong Kong is ruled by ‘’patriots’’ who have declared their ‘’holistic love” for the Chinese Communist Party.

The changes, which will be unanimously approved next week, will make it almost impossible for opposition leaders to take office and will give Beijing the power to choose those who do.

This follows hard on the heels of the National Security Law which was introduced following the Two Sessions last year.

Since the introduction of that law, most high-profile pro-democracy politicians have ended up in jail, on bail or been forced into exile.

At the start of this week, 47 democracy supporters were arrested and charged under the National Security Law and are likely to face jail terms. The priority for President Xi Jinping is to end, once and for all, the kind of protests which gripped Hong Kong throughout 2019.

No amount of international condemnation will deter him from what appears to be an accelerated agenda to bring the city, formally, under communist rule.