Electoral reform to bring HK into a new era
Detailed plan for overhauling local electoral system to take effect very soon, giving fundamental support for upcoming LegCo election
Published: Mar 04, 2021 09:17 PM
Hong Kong. Photo: VCG

Hong Kong. Photo: VCG

With China's top legislature officially introducing reform of Hong Kong electoral system into this year's two sessions agenda, the central government's advisors forecast that a detailed plan for overhauling the local electoral system would take effect in a very short period, giving fundamental support for the election in the second half of 2021, and bringing local governance into a new era.  

China officially launched its legislative process for electoral system reform in Hong Kong, the top legislature confirmed on Thursday. In tackling exposed loopholes in the city's political system, top Chinese policymakers came up with two major steps in introducing the Hong Kong-related laws - the national security law and electoral reform legislature within a year, which fundamentally changes the rules of the political game in sweeping out the anti-China figures and some backed by Western forces, helping patriots hold power firmly, experts said. 

The official agenda of the fourth annual session of the 13th National People's Congress (NPC) for this year's two sessions was officially unveiled on Thursday night, which includes highly anticipated political reform for Hong Kong with the aim of fixing deep-rooted loopholes in the current political system and meeting the fundamental requirements of patriots governing Hong Kong. 

The fourth annual session of the 13th NPC will kick off on Friday and conclude on March 11. 

Based on the recent situation in Hong Kong, the city's electoral system needs to move with the times, Zhang Yesui, spokesperson of the fourth annual session of the NPC, said at the first press conference of the NPC on Thursday night. To improve the HK electoral system is the power and the responsibility of the NPC on the constitutional level, the spokesperson said. 

The power of conducting the rectification lies on the central authority, which will take the enactment of the national security law for Hong Kong as an example, with a draft decision to be adopted by the two sessions before granting the NPC Standing Committee the power to formulate. And it's up to the HKSAR government to implement detailed measures in undertaking the reforms. 

The procedures of rectifying the law and authorizing local authorities to implement detail reform measures won't take long, which will probably be done within one or two months, as the LegCo election is scheduled in September, according to some legal experts.

It took about one month for the top legislature to approve the decision of improving the legal system to safeguard national security in Hong Kong, as the national security law for Hong Kong was enacted on June 30, 2020. On whether the imminent reform plan would follow suit of the enactment of the national security law for Hong Kong, Lau Siu-kai, vice-president of the Chinese Association of Hong Kong and Macao Studies, said the reform plan would be led by the central authority, which has been fully authorized by the Constitution in terms of full-scale governance over Hong Kong. 

The NPC would adopt a decision to authorize the NPC Standing Committee to formulate a detailed reform plan, and in line with the plan, local authorities in Hong Kong will rectify relevant election laws to implement those plans. "The whole process won't take very long," Lau told the Global Times.

Albert Chen, a member of the Basic Law Committee, also told the Global Times that if the draft decision is approved by the NPC, the NPC Standing Committee will handle the matter in the next one to two months, coming up with a detailed reform plan. Then, the HKSAR government will take several months to rectify a series of election laws before delivering them to be adopted by LegCo, he said. 

Carrie Lam, chief executive of the HKSAR government, said on Thursday night that local authorities welcome the NPC's decision of reviewing and improving Hong Kong's electoral reform, and it will fully cooperate with the top legislature in implementing the principle of patriots governing Hong Kong.

Unlike the enactment of the national security law, the process will take into account local election laws, while given the urgency of the reform, the process of overhauling the electoral system would be finalized in a proper manner, laying a systematic foundation for the LegCo election in the second half of 2021 in Hong Kong, Tian Feilong, a Hong Kong affairs expert at Beihang University in Beijing, told the Global Times on Thursday.

A new era 

Ahead of this year's two sessions, top Chinese policymakers on Hong Kong held two seminars within one week, delivering messages about the importance of the political reforms for Hong Kong, listening to public opinion from Hong Kong society regarding the reforms and highlighting the urgency and necessity of conducting such changes.  

Xia Baolong, vice chairman of the National Committee of the CPPCC and head of the Hong Kong and Macao Affairs Office of the State Council, urged Hong Kong to fully implement the political baseline of "patriots governing Hong Kong" by improving the electoral system to plug loopholes to ensure that those who govern the city meet relevant basic standards, including fully safeguarding sovereignty, national interest and never jeopardizing the socialist system led by the Communist Party of China (CPC).

Wang Yang, chairman of the CPPCC National Committee, said during the opening session of the fourth session of the 13th National Committee of the CPPCC on Thursday afternoon that the CPPCC resolutely supports the principle of patriots governing Hong Kong in 2021. 

Some observers made a metaphor regarding these two major Hong Kong-related legislative steps: the national security law for Hong Kong helped build up a fence for safeguarding national security and electoral reform makes sure the power of authority is firmly held by patriots, which both further consolidate the fundamentals of "one country, two systems."

"From enacting the national security law for Hong Kong last year to this year's electoral system reform, the central government has been playing a vital role in adjusting and restructuring Hong Kong's constitutional order, in order to safeguard the city's prosperity and stability in a responsible manner," Tian said. 

Such moves also provide firm support for future improvement in the local system and order," he noted. 

According to a recent survey conducted by a local institute called Zijing in Hong Kong, among 1,078 local residents, over 80 percent agreed with the principle of patriots governing Hong Kong, and over 70 percent agreed with the necessity and urgency of improving the current electoral system by plugging loopholes. About 77 percent believe the central government should take the lead in fixing the problems with the current system. The survey was conducted from Saturday to Wednesday.

Besides national security and the election, Hong Kong authorities need to fix loopholes in the local system in the future, for example, in terms of jurisdiction, Tian said, noting that based on the Basic Law, the central government has responsibility and constitutional interpretation on legal aspects. 

It also fundamentally changes the long-term rules of the political game in Hong Kong, quickly squeezing room for those anti-China figures who make trouble in the city, toward which Western forces would also reduce their reliance and expectations on, Lau said. 

Former chief executive CY Leung said in an interview with RTHK that reforms to the HKSAR's electoral system are needed to stop "puppets of foreign governments" getting into power, as he also said people who love Hong Kong, its way of life and its capitalist system, should thank the CPC.