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Kamis, 11 Maret 2021

Chinese politicians endorse tighter control over Hong Kong while defending economic growth target seen by some as conservative - ABC News

Chinese Premier Li Keqiang has put the brakes on those hoping for a return to the years of China's supercharged GDP growth, warning there's plenty of uncertainty in the global pandemic recovery.

Mr Li, China's second-ranked leader, held a highly stage-managed press conference to close China's annual Congress in Beijing, where he defended setting a minimum 6 per cent GDP growth target, considered by many analysts as conservative.

"We would certainly be happy to see robust growth, but we are also clearly aware of the uncertainty involving China's economic rebound, as well as uncertain global economic growth," he said.

"A 6 per cent GDP growth target is not a low target."

He referred to the challenge of worsening unemployment after China experienced a rare economic contraction during the early months of the global pandemic in urging caution.

"You need a steady pace to sustain China's development for the long run," he said.

While 6 per cent would be enviable in most countries, many analysts forecast a higher target of about 8 per cent.

Although China's economy had been slowing in the years before the pandemic, some had hoped for a bigger stimulus push to get the second largest economy chugging again.

There are others though who question whether China's economy is facing more difficulties than the leaders acknowledge.

"China's economic situation, like its politics, is not transparent," said Wu Qiang, an independent political commentator in Beijing.

"China is going well because of its role as the world's factory and is benefiting as the pandemic causes problems for rival manufacturers in other countries.

"Whether this benefit could be sustainable, whether it could solve China's own economic problems, whether it could increase China's domestic needs, are all uncertain."

Hong Kong electoral reforms pass with no opposing votes

On the final day of the annual Congress, almost three thousand delegates cast votes on a range of bills proposed by the government.

And true to its reputation as a rubber-stamp parliament, all but one delegate, who abstained, voted to approve the most contentious measure this year — a change to Hong Kong's electoral system.

"The decision is clear cut," Mr Li said.

"It is to adhere to and improve the systemic structure of 'one country, two systems' and uphold the principle of patriots administrating Hong Kong."

people with face masks on hold up signs in a streets in hong kong
Carrie Lam — a major target of the 2019 protest movement — said she was "grateful" for changes.(

AP: Vincent Yu

)

Under what China's leaders call reforms, a committee stacked with government loyalists will be expanded and empowered to approve or reject any political candidate in Hong Kong that wants to run for office.

The same committee will directly appoint a proportion of the city's legislative councillors, further reducing the number of seats the public directly elects.

Previously Hong Kong voters elected half of the Legislative Council, while the other half were chosen by special interest groups that were reliably loyal to China's government.

Hong Kong's Beijing-backed Chief Executive Carrie Lam — a major target of the 2019 protest movement — said she was "grateful" for the changes that China's government imposed, saying they would rid the city's Parliament of "unpatriotic" members.

"We will be able to resolve the problem of the [Legislative Council] making everything political in recent years and effectively deal with the reckless moves or internal rift that have torn Hong Kong apart," she said.

Two Asian men in suits sit behind desks in a chamber with red carpet.
China's government wants to ensure "unpatriotic" people don't hold political office in Hong Kong's Legislative Council.(

AP: Roman Pilipey/Pool

)

The changes come after China's leader Xi Jinping imposed a National Security Law on Hong Kong last year that has been used by authorities to jail dozens of prominent pro-democracy leaders, or force others into exile.

China's government describes the latest changes as necessary to plug "loopholes" that allowed "unpatriotic" people to hold elected office in the special administrative region.

In a sign of the political chill that has descended on the city, a government broadcaster RTHK pulled a pre-recorded discussion program about the electoral changes off air because it had three moderate political guests, according to local media.

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2021-03-11 20:10:00Z
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