Australia criticises Hong Kong electoral changes

SYDNEY (Reuters) – Australian foreign minister Marise Payne on Friday expressed serious concern at Chinese changes to Hong Kong’s electoral system, saying the reforms weakened Hong Kong’s democratic institutions.

“It is essential that Hong Kong people have channels to exercise their fundamental freedom of political expression,” Payne said in a statement.

China’s parliament on Thursday approved a draft decision to change Hong Kong’s electoral system, further reducing democratic representation in the city’s institutions and introducing a mechanism to vet politicians’ loyalty to Beijing.

The United States on Thursday condemned the changes and forecast “difficult” talks with China’s top diplomats next week.

There are about 100,000 Australian citizens living in Hong Kong, one of Australia’s largest expatriate communities.

Former Hong Kong pro-democracy lawmaker Ted Hui arrived in Australia on Monday, after fleeing Hong Kong late last year, and said he planned to lobby for the pro-democracy movement.