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Poll reform makes HK more inclusive

By Hao Shinan | China Daily | Updated: 2021-09-17 07:48

Photo taken on June 29, 2021 shows China's national flags and flags of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (HKSAR) on a street in China's Hong Kong. [Photo/Xinhua]

After the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region implemented the electoral system reform, the Election Committee election on Sept 19, has become the focus of attention. The revamped Election Committee will assume some new responsibilities in the next two elections to the Legislative Council and the chief executive's election.

Under the amended Annex I of the Basic Law of Hong Kong passed by the National People's Congress Standing Committee on March 30, the size of the Election Committee has been increased from 1,200 to 1,500 seats with a 300-seat Fifth Subsector added to the existing four subsectors of 300 seats each. And according to the amendment to Annex II, the Election Committee will also be responsible for electing 40 of the 90 members in the expanded LegCo.

Thus, in its role as a "gatekeeper" in Hong Kong's rule of law, the Election Committee will reshape the trajectories of political development by transforming the SAR's election ecology. The inclusion of another subsector in the Election Committee and its expansion have strengthened the principle of "one country"-as part of "one country, two systems"-which will help free the elections in Hong Kong (of which the LegCo election is the most important) from radicalism and ensure "balanced participation" as stipulated in the Basic Law of Hong Kong.

The elections in Hong Kong this year will have new features. First, the eligibility of candidates will be more strictly scrutinized. The newly established Candidate Eligibility Review Committee will allow the officials to comprehensively review the candidates' eligibility, by including the "patriot test", so as to bar unpatriotic elements from contesting the elections.

And there will be more members with "national awareness" and "cross-border experience" in the revamped Election Committee, including the Hong Kong deputies to the National People's Congress and the Hong Kong members of the National Committee of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference.

The Basic Law of Hong Kong has been framed in accordance with the Constitution of the People's Republic of China, and the electoral system reform has been approved by the NPC Standing Committee, which is authorized to interpret the country's Constitution and the Basic Law of Hong Kong.

From the Constitution's point of view, the Election Committee is not just a "gatekeeper" or a representative body; it is a body designed to set the boundaries and "bottom line" for the elections. The increased number of seats make it more inclusive and representative, which can help promote the balanced development of Hong Kong.

Hong Kong used to be mired in "electoral fundamentalism". Some different camps regarded winning the elections to the EC, the LegCo and even the chief executive's post as the ultimate goal of politics, and ignored the fundamental point that democracy should serve the people. Some politicians even tried to turn the election to the District Councils, originally established to serve the grassroots, into a political battle.

The elections in Hong Kong promoted polarization due to the relatively fragmented political party system in Hong Kong, as well as the weak sense of national identity and basic political consensus among the various factions.

In other words, without a "strong gatekeeper", the previous elections in Hong Kong were disorderly political competitions and made society more politicized. In contrast, almost all Western economies have some form of a "gatekeeper" to regulate and monitor elections such as the primaries in the United States, the two-round election system in France, and Political Parties Act in Germany. As a special administrative region of China, Hong Kong also should have such a "gatekeeper" to ensure patriots administer Hong Kong.

A main responsibility of the Election Committee is to regulate the elections in Hong Kong, so as to ensure all governing bodies of the SAR government can effectively implement the principle of "patriots administering Hong Kong", and, on that basis, work together to ensure the metropolis' stability and development. The subsector elections will enable the rebalancing Hong Kong's politics between political competition and governance performance.

And a balanced political environment will be more beneficial to the socioeconomic progress of Hong Kong, and help develop the Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macao Great Bay Area as well as the Shenzhen-Hong Kong cooperation zone in Qianhai, whose expansion plan was released recently.

The author is an associate professor in Department of Political Science at Shanghai International Studies University.

The views don't necessarily reflect those of China Daily.

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