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HK election will improve governance

By Hao Shinan and Wang Min | CHINA DAILY | Updated: 2021-12-18 08:14

The Hong Kong Special Administrative Region will hold the Legislative Council election on Sunday, the first major election since the formation of a new Election Committee following the electoral system reform.

Altogether 153 candidates are in the fray for the election, and judging by the lineup in the sub-sectors, keen competition is expected in all the three (geographical, functional and Election Committee) constituencies.

For the geographical constituencies, 35 candidates are contesting 20 seats. The functional and Election Committee constituencies are also likely to see serious competition.

However, the competition this time is different from that seen in the past. After the electoral reform, Hong Kong's electoral system has significantly improved. In particular, the competition is no longer between polarized camps, as a considerable number of non-partisan candidates from diverse backgrounds have emerged as key players during the election campaign.

In the past, the radicals from the opposition camp, under the guise of taking forward the "democratization" process, had indulged in party-based competition and divided the electorate to win the majority of votes in the Legislative Council and disrupted governance in the SAR.

By resorting to filibustering and violence in LegCo, a small group of radicals often succeeded in hijacking the proceedings and undermining the governance capacity of the SAR administration and its chief executive.

By curbing "democratic fundamentalism", Hong Kong's reformed electoral system, with the help of the National Security Law, has restored order in the electoral process and accorded priority to governance. No wonder Hong Kong residents are now talking about good governance and promotion of true democracy.

Democracy in Hong Kong has improved because the reformed electoral system has made "patriots administering Hong Kong" mandatory. The fact that now potential nominees have to not only fulfill rigorous conditions but also take an oath to observe and protect the Basic Law of Hong Kong to be eligible to contest the LegCo election will prevent them from advocating "Hong Kong independence", refusing to recognize China's sovereignty over Hong Kong, seeking foreign interference in Hong Kong, or endangering national security.

During the nomination process, the candidates who did not meet the "patriots administering Hong Kong" principle (including refusal to take the mandatory oath) were disqualified from contesting the election.

By barring potential radical elements from contesting the election through institutional adjustment, the reformed electoral system has facilitated good governance. For long radical politicians had been creating chaos to win seats in LegCo, and challenging the SAR and central governments to earn "election bonus".

So by drastically reducing the size of the geographical sector-20 seats in 10 dual-member districts-the electoral reform has eliminated the possibility of such a scenario.

Under the new institutional design, larger parties have become more competitive despite their moderate political status. Hence, the small but radical parties have no option but to merge to form a larger party or larger parties to survive. Also, under the new political system, a rational and moderate legislature will have more opportunities to strengthen administration and improve overall governance.

The effective functioning of LegCo will not only further the democratization process but also enable officials to take measures to improve Hong Kong residents' livelihoods, and the improved political system will help settle the long-standing political disputes in the SAR. And since the space for political confrontations has shrunk, issues such as poverty, unemployment, and housing and social security needs have gained prominence on the political agenda.

In short, a distinct democratic system has begun to take shape in Hong Kong. Such a democratic system, by discarding the idea of "democracy for democracy" and democratic fundamentalism, can pay proper attention to sovereignty, national security and a high-degree of autonomy for the SAR. Therefore, "balanced participation", as stipulated in the Basic Law, will replace the fierce battles between ideologically different parties, which is what Hong Kong residents really want.

Hao Shinan is an associate professor at the Department of Political Science at Shanghai International Studies University, and Wang Min is a PhD candidate at the university's Department of Political Science.

The opinions expressed here are those of the writer and do not necessarily represent the views of China Daily and China Daily website.

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