Hong Kong dropped from Economic Freedom Index as policies 'controlled from Beijing'

Henrietta Strickland
March 5, 2021

Earlier Friday, China introduced legislation to allow the communist government to vet all election candidates in Hong Kong, the latest move to eliminate dissent and ensure a "patriotic" government in the city, which has had a degree of autonomy since reverting from British rule in 1997.

Hong Kong's election system then suddenly appeared on the agenda of China's rubber stamp National People's Congress hours before it convened for a week of annual political meetings.

China will resolutely guard against and deter foreign interference in the affairs of Hong Kong and Macao, the governmental report said on Friday.

Recent developments showed the electoral system "needs to be improved to keep up with the times and provide a sound institutional guarantee of "one country, two systems", and the principle of patriots administering Hong Kong", Zhang said.

At last year's event, which was delayed because of the pandemic, China abstained from setting a public gross domestic product target, citing economic uncertainties.

Any reforms would deal the most severe blow yet to the democracy camp, just as 47 members, charged with subversion under a new national security law, were remanded in custody and mostly denied bail.

Delegates from across the country gathered in Beijing on Friday for the weeklong National People's Congress.

"We owe our achievements a year ago to the strong leadership of the Party Central Committee with Comrade Xi Jinping at its core", Li said in an hour-long speech to over 5,000 delegates gathered in the Great Hall of the People, all of them inoculated against COVID-19 with a vaccine made by China's Sinopharm.

It said people who worked for Chinese firms in Hong Kong were banned from joining the pro-democracy protests of 2019.

The report said private firms have to stick to the Communist Party's line if they want to succeed in China and are responsible for furthering state objectives.

"The loss of political freedom and autonomy suffered by Hong Kong over the past two years has made that city nearly indistinguishable in many respects from other major Chinese commercial centres like Shanghai and Beijing", Edwin J. Feulner, the founder of the Heritage Foundation, wrote in the Wall Street Journal on Wednesday.

Li traditionally uses the lengthy speech to reveal an annual growth target for the world's second-largest economy.

Beijing will spend $210 billion on defence amid high government debt and coronavirus as ruling Communist Party sees economic growth of "over 6 percent" this year.

That's up from the 6.6 percent increase previous year to $180 billion, the lowest percentage increase in at least two decades. In January, researchers at Stockholm International Peace Research Institute updated the way it calculates China's defense spending for 2019, estimating the Asian nation's outlay at 1.66 trillion yuan, or 38% more than the official figure.

Li made no direct mention of brittle ties with the United States, China's trading partner and geopolitical rival, with all eyes now on how the relationship may evolve under new U.S. leader Joe Biden.

Other reports by Click Lancashire

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