Need a blow China - Hong Kong area

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China's overhaul of Hong Kong's electoral system is being seen as a watershed moment by those who fear Beijing's encroaching influence on the city. Recent changes ensure that only "patriots" loyal to the mainland can end up in positions of power. To those hoping Hong Kong might move towards greater democracy, it feels like the final blow. Many people simply don't want to talk anymore. In fact, over the past few years it has become harder and harder to get ordinary people to speak their mind about the city's relationship with the mainland.

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Sharing that observation with a friend in Hong Kong, the response was a cynical "Lol", with a sober afterthought: "That's how authoritarian regimes work. Lee Jonghyuk, an assistant professor at Singapore's Nanyang Technological University, told the BBC that sensitive topics of conversation would "naturally perish" under these kinds of circumstances.

So what is it like in patriotic Hong Kong, and what do people expect in the future?

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Opposition politicians - those most directly affected by the change - are still speaking up, at least for the time being. The changes will put Hong Kong "20 odd years back," warned Lo Kin-hei, the chairman of the opposition Democratic Party.

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He told the BBC that any progress over the past two decades had essentially been erased by Beijing. Lo Kin-hei's party treasurer, Ramon Yuen Hoi-man, said that China's leadership was "trampling on democracy" and breaking with the vision of universal suffrage spelled out in the city's constitution, the Basic Law.

Lo Kin-hei and other pro-democracy forces now face a difficult discussion over whether they will keep on participating in the election "or whether we will go another way". Professor Lee, from Nanyang Technological University, said there may simply be no avenues left for political or public influence. It will never revert their decisions even with the international pressure.

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Talking to people on the ground is more difficult, but not impossible. He said he planned to stay - "And as long as I can find any legal way to spread my views, I will do it" - but he said he feared many would leave Hong Kong for good.

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The UK has already opened a pathway out by allowing people born before the handover to get onto a special visa scheme that can lead to British citizenship. Yet that's a costly option for many, warned Professor Lee. For most ordinary Kong Kong residents, it will simply be not possible to uproot and leave. And while many might be unhappy with the changes forced by Beijing, "political rights are not essential for living". Finding voices that support China's changes is already a lot easier than finding open dissent.

Penny Sun is an online influencer with thousands of followers on social media. She told the BBC she fully backs the changes and that Hong Kong's political figures should be "patriots" and do the same.

She said she enjoyed more freedom now than she did during the long months of the protests that she described as "riots". She said during the time of the protests those who supported China avoided talking about politics in order not to run into trouble.

She said "patriotic" politicians would still be free to discuss the topics that matter and are much closer to people's lives, such as the city's pressing housing problem. Others fear this will only be true for those whose views align with China's, and not for those who dissent. Many in Hong Kong, as well as observers from abroad, have been shocked by the speed with which the recent drastic changes have taken place. From the introduction last year of the much-criticised "national security law" - which criminalised secession, subversion and "collusion with foreign forces", and carries a life sentence - to the recent electoral changes.

And yet Professor Lee said he had expected those changes to come even faster.

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The Chinese leadership was "quite afraid of a domestic chain reaction if it would give in to Hong Kong", he said. Two years later, speaking out against Beijing has been made illegal and opposition politicians can be easily kept out of parliament. Universal suffrage is a mere obstacle to the stability of the Communist Party's regime. Top Hong Kong activists found guilty for protests. What is China's 'patriot' plan for Hong Kong?

Beijing's fear of a chain reaction. Related Topics.

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More on this story. Published 1 April. Published 30 March.

Need a blow China - Hong Kong area

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China is 'trampling on Hong Kong's democracy'