Have Chinese lawmakers taken another step to silence all opposition in Hong Kong?

  • Video report from ITV News Asia Correspondent Debi Edward

How can you uphold a system and destroy it at the same time?

The answer of course, is you can’t. So who is correct, the Chinese government or the British government?

By its own admission China has approved changes to the territory's system which will "always insist on patriots ruling Hong Kong."

There is no disguise of the fact that this overhaul is designed to make sure that those ruling the city express loyalty to the Communist Party and have been approved by Beijing.

British Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab described the changes as "the latest step by Beijing to hollow out the space for democratic debate in Hong Kong, contrary to the promises made by China itself".

He is referring to the handover agreement under which China promised at some date in the future to deliver Universal Suffrage to the people of Hong Kong.

That now looks like a pipe dream, and perhaps always was.

  • A Hong Kong resident explains, anonymously, why she wants to leave for the UK

There was never any doubt that the changes, or improvements as they are described by China, would be approved in Beijing. With one abstention they were voted through by 2,895 to 1. 

They are being billed as a necessary stabilising measure in response to the protests which gripped the city in 2019.

But following the introduction of the National Security Law which prohibits any such protest or criticism of the Communist Party, they are essentially another step in the effort to silence all opposition in Hong Kong. And these changes go right to the heart of the system which gives Hong Kong its separate identity and freedoms. 

We have spoken to a young woman in Hong Kong who together with her husband will soon leave for the UK.

They have British Nationals Overseas (BNO) passports and will take advantage of a new fast track visa scheme introduced by UK government for those seeking to exit the former British territory.

She told us she has become fearful about what she says in public and politics is no longer something people can talk about openly.

A British National Overseas passport (BNO) and a Hong Kong Special Administrative Region of the People's Republic of China passport. Credit: AP

Anyone who took part in the pro-democracy protest in recent years feels afraid of being targeted by the National Security Law.

It has led to the arrest or imprisonment of most of the city’s high-profile opposition politicians.

Even if they had their liberty the electoral changes announced by Beijing would make it almost impossible for those politicians and activists to ever hold office. 

The woman we spoke to is one of thousands, potentially up to 300,000 who will leave Hong Kong for the UK in the next five years.

They do so, in her case, leaving elderly relatives and parents behind, not knowing if they will be allowed to return. But with China firmly in control, the city is no longer a place they want to call home.