"Patriots governing Hong Kong" represents the essence of the "one country, two systems" framework for the city, said Xia Baolong, head of China's Hong Kong and Macao Affairs Office. "I can understand that the central authorities are very concerned". "While the package adopted in July was well received at the time, the EU's position is coming under increasing scrutiny as the situation deteriorates".
The SCMP quoted a "government insider involved in the city's electoral matters" who said September's legislative elections could be delayed while Beijing rewrites Hong Kong's electoral laws and implements its "patriot" policies.
"The urgency of the Communist Party's move suggests a worry that pro-democracy sentiment in Hong Kong is so strong that the party could lose control of the committee unless it disqualifies democracy advocates from serving", the NYT wrote.
After huge and often violent democracy protests swept the city in 2019 - and opposition politicians won a landslide in district council elections - Beijing responded with a major crackdown.
"Patriots" included those who loved China, its constitution and the Communist Party and excluded anti-China "troublemakers", said Xia. That influence was eroded when the government delayed a Legislative Council election in September a year ago that could have seen democracy advocates score another win.
What form electoral reform might take remains to be seen. Changes under consideration reportedly include a ban against "unpatriotic" candidates in Hong Kong elections. "It applies to various aspects of the political structure, including the executive, the legislative, the judiciary, the District Councils and the civil service".
Lam said in in a news conference on Monday that reforms would not be created to limit the influence of pro-democracy politicians but that no one in government should engage in unpatriotic activities, such as colluding with foreign powers to subvert China's central government.
EU governments have been widely criticized by human rights activists for doing less than their US and United Kingdom counterparts while cozying up to China for an investment pact that could see European companies gain deeper access to the Chinese market.