China's parliament votes to change Hong Kong's electoral system, including plans to grant Beijing veto powers over lawmaker candidates, reducing the number elected by the public.

Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam says that being a patriot does not mean you have to
Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam says that being a patriot does not mean you have to "love" the Chinese Communist Party. (AP)

China's ceremonial legislature has endorsed the ruling Communist Party's latest move to tighten control over Hong Kong by reducing the role of its public in picking the territory's leaders.

Changes endorsed by the National People's Congress on Thursday would give a pro-Beijing committee power to appoint more of Hong Kong's lawmakers, reducing the number elected by the public.

The measure adds to a crackdown against a protest movement in Hong Kong against Beijing. 

The vote by NPC delegates was 2,895-0, with 1 abstention. 

The body routinely endorses party plans by unanimous votes or overwhelming majorities.

Carrie Lam defends plan to rewrite electoral landscape 

Meanwhile, Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam said that being a patriot does not mean you have to "love" the Chinese Communist Party.

"The Hong Kong government and I firmly support the decision and express our gratitude from the bottom of our hearts," Lam said.

"It's not to screen out the opposition... it's about upholding the important principle of patriots administering Hong Kong," she said.

READ MORE: China to tighten vetting of Hong Kong lawmakers

Beijing wants 'patriotic' government in Hong Kong

The decision aims to place the power of governing the city "firmly in the hands of forces that are patriotic and love Hong Kong", according to parliamentary spokesman Wang Chen.

Although the exact shape of the latest changes is unclear in China's opaque political system, the vote clears the path towards a "qualification vetting system" for the electoral process in Hong Kong.

A Beijing-controlled election committee in the city would also be tasked with "electing a large proportion of Legislative Council members," he added, referring to the city's LegCo assembly.

The move is a "setback" for Hong Kong's progress on democratic development since 1997, said Bernard Chan, a top advisor to city leader Carrie Lam, this week.

"Over the last 23 years, we clearly didn't do a good job to show to the central government that these so-called political reforms are actually helping 'One Country, Two Systems'," Chan told AFP news agency.

READ MORE: Protesting crowds gather outside Hong Kong court after dissidents charged

Hong Kong's semi-autonomy

China had committed to giving Hong Kong a degree of autonomy when it reverted from British colonial rule in 1997, a status that has unravelled in recent months –– drawing international criticism.

Until recently Hong Kong has maintained a veneer of choice, allowing a small and vocal opposition to flourish at certain local elections.

Generally when Hong Kongers are allowed to vote, they vote in droves for anti-Beijing candidates.

In recent years, however, authorities have ramped up the disqualification of politicians either sitting in the city's semi-elected legislature or standing as candidates, based on their political views.

Last month Hong Kong announced its own plans to pass a law vetting all public officials for their political loyalty to Beijing.

Wang had said the "chaos in Hong Kong society shows that there are obvious loopholes and defects in the current electoral system", giving an opportunity for "anti-China forces in Hong Kong" to seize power.

READ MORE: UK launches special visa scheme for Hong Kongers

Source: AP