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HK electoral reform on agenda for NPC

By GANG WEN | China Daily Global | Updated: 2021-03-05 08:51

Witnessed by Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor, permanent secretaries, heads of department and directorate civil servants at the rank of D6 or above swear to uphold Hong Kong's Basic Law, bear allegiance to the HKSAR, be dedicated to their duties and be responsible to the HKSAR government during a ceremony at the Central Government Offices, Hong Kong, Dec 18, 2020. [PHOTO / HKSAR GOVERNMENT]

China's top legislature has power, responsibility to improve system

The preparatory meeting of the fourth session of the 13th National People's Congress, China's top legislature, adopted the agenda for the session on Thursday, including an item to deliberate a draft NPC decision on improving the electoral system of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region.

The NPC has the power and responsibility to make a decision at the constitutional level to improve the electoral system of the Hong Kong SAR, said Zhang Yesui, spokesman for the fourth annual session of the 13th NPC, on Thursday.

Hong Kong's representatives at this year's two sessions proposed a number of ideas and suggestions to improve the special administrative region's electoral system in line with the principle of "patriots governing Hong Kong".

Among the suggestions, many called for the SAR's electoral reform.

On Wednesday, Leung Chun-ying, vice-chairman of the National Committee of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference, China's top political advisory body, posted on social media about what he termed the illogicality of having a large number of district councilors on the city's Election Committee, which is responsible for choosing the city's leader.

Leung, a former Hong Kong chief executive, said district councilors are elected to serve the interests of the public in their districts.

But the district councilors' role was distorted by some radicals during the region's social unrest in 2019, Leung said.

The district councils were turned into a platform for politics, instead of providing consultation for the government on district administration and issues involving people's livelihoods as intended, Leung said. The distortion was not in line with their duties as stipulated in Article 97 of the Basic Law, he said.

The SAR government also has proposed amending the law to require district councilors to swear allegiance to the SAR and uphold the Basic Law. Those who violate the oaths would face disqualification and a five-year ban from running for public office, according to the amendment.

Tam Yiu-chung, a member of the Standing Committee of the National People's Congress, said Hong Kong should draw lessons from the past to avoid the return of those trying to stir up trouble in the city.

Tam told the Southern Metropolis Daily newspaper in Guangzhou, Guangdong province, that separatists had taken advantage of the system's defects and infiltrated government bodies, attempting to take control and replace patriots in governing the city.

With the joint efforts of the central and SAR governments, separatist forces have been effectively subdued after the enactment of the National Security Law for Hong Kong, he said.

Rita Fan Hsu Lai-tai, former head of the city's legislature and a former member of the NPC Standing Committee, suggested replacing the seats held by district councilors in the city's Election Committee with Hong Kong deputies to the NPC and the city's members on the National Committee of the CPPCC.

Fan said district councilors' representation on the Election Committee is not necessary, according to the legislative intent of the Basic Law, and canceling the seats they hold would not affect their role as advisers to the government.

CPPCC National Committee member Ngai Ming-tak of Hong Kong took the idea further by suggesting that Legislative Council super seats, which are elected from district councilors, should also be replaced by CPPCC members representing various sectors.

According to the current regulations, district councilors take up 117 seats on the 1,200-seat Election Committee, while CPPCC National Committee members have only 51 seats on the committee.

Another CPPCC National Committee member from the SAR, Cheung Hok-sau, also said CPPCC members should play a bigger role in Hong Kong's political system.

In Beijing, Guo Weimin, spokesman for the fourth session of the 13th CPPCC National Committee, said at a news conference on Wednesday that the nation's top political advisory body will strive to unite and reach consensus to support the "patriots governing Hong Kong" principle.

Other proposals from Hong Kong delegates include enhancing national education and youth exchanges.

Xinhua contributed to this story.

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