By Bai Yunyi
A detailed draft decision to overhaul the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (HKSAR) electoral system was unveiled on Friday at the opening of the annual session of the National People’s Congress (NPC), laying out targets and principles for the imminent reforms, Wang Chen, vice chairman of the National People’s Congress Standing Committee, said in a speech on the draft decision at the opening.
Experts said the core of this reform of Hong Kong’s electoral system is the change in the functions and roles of the Election Committee. Combining the election of the Chief Executive and the Legislative Council through the Election Committee will bring the social basis of the executive and legislative powers of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region closer to each other, which is expected to ease the conflict and confrontation between the two powers in Hong Kong seen in the past. At the same time, the electoral reform will squeeze the power of big business groups and overcome the obstruction of vested interests to the implementation of social and livelihood reforms in the region.
Lau Siu-kai, vice-president of the Chinese Association of Hong Kong and Macao Studies, told the Global Times on Friday that the reform of Hong Kong’s electoral system has a clear theme, which is to consolidate the “patriots governing Hong Kong” principle by elevating the status, expanding the scale and strengthening the functions of the Election Committee.
According to Wang, it is expected that some Legislative Council (LegCo) members will be elected by the Election Committee, while others will also need to be approved by the Election Committee or at least get some nomination votes to participate in the LegCo election. The number of committee members will also increase with greater social representation.
“It can be said that the reform of the Election Committee is the core of the electoral system reform,” Lau said.
Currently Hong Kong’s Election Committee is only responsible for electing the SAR’s Chief Executive. The committee consists of four major sectors, each with 300 members, for a total of 1,200 members.
According to Wang, the general idea for refining the electoral system is to design the system with focus on increasing the power of the Election Committee, and adjusting and optimizing the scale, composition and formation method of the Committee. The Chief Executive will continue to be elected by the Election Committee, which will be given new functions to elect a larger proportion of LegCo members and directly participate in the nomination of all LegCo candidates.
Lau said that if the Election Committee is deeply involved in the election process of both the Chief Executive and the LegCo legislators, the social and political foundations of the executive and legislative bodies of the HKSAR will be closer, the possibility of confrontation between the two will be reduced, and the scenario featuring difficult governance and low prestige of the previous SAR government will be avoided.
Lau, also former chief adviser to the HKSAR government’s Central Policy Unit, explained that Hong Kong has been plagued by a series of deep-seated economic, social and people’s livelihood problems for a long time, however, these problems have not received the attention and serious treatment they deserve.
“One reason is that the internal and external hostile forces have successfully put political issues, especially the ‘political reform,’ ‘central government and HKSAR relationship’ and ‘administrative-legislative relationship’ into Hong Kong’s ‘most important’ issues, which have sharply squeezed and marginalized the space of economic, social and people’s livelihood issues in the public agenda, and also made it impossible for the HKSAR government to effectively govern itself in a situation of executive-legislative opposition,” Lau said.
The draft also makes clear the need to maintain the executive-led structure of the HKSAR. The important principles for improving the electoral system are to enhance the governance effectiveness of the HKSAR; to improve the system by which the Chief Executive is accountable to the central government; to maintain the executive-led governance structure and operational mechanism of the HKSAR; to support the Chief Executive, executive organs, legislatures, and judicial organs in exercising their powers and duties in accordance with the law; to ensure the smooth and effective functioning of the political system and governance systems and mechanisms of the HKSAR.
Lau also said that the election of the Chief Executive was based more on the middle and upper classes of Hong Kong society in the past, while the LegCo election was based more on the middle and lower classes. After the Election Committee reform, it is expected that the central government will not only exclude anti-China and anti-Hong Kong forces from the HKSAR administration system, but also include more people from the patriotic forces, especially those at the grassroots level, into the Election Committee, in order to balance the situation that the Election Committee favors big business groups.
“This will help both the central government and the HKSAR government get more support for future economic and livelihood reforms and overcome the obstruction by some vested interests and big business groups,” Lau said.
The electoral reform will wipe out anti-China and anti-Hong Kong activists but that does not mean the pro-establishment camp could rest easy. Instead, the central government will set higher governance bar for the SAR and strengthen “the building of patriotic forces” in Hong Kong, Lau said.
After the HKSAR is out of the quagmire of political struggles, “both the pro-establishment camp and patriots must work hard to solve Hong Kong’s social and livelihood problems so that they can have a better political future,” Lau said.
Source: Global Times