Draft decision on HK electoral overhaul clarifies reform targets, procedures and principles
Published: Mar 05, 2021 10:30 AM Updated: Mar 05, 2021 09:39 PM
Photo: VCG

Photo: VCG

A draft decision on improving the electoral system of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region was submitted to China's top legislature on Friday, as the fourth session of the 13th National People's Congress (NPC) opened in Beijing.

During a speech at the opening of the NPC session, Wang Chen, vice chairman of the Standing Committee of the NPC, urged improvement of the election measures and scale of the Election Committee, to build a democratic electoral system with Hong Kong characteristics.

The electoral system of the HKSAR, including the methods for the election of the Chief Executive and the formation of the Legislative Council, must strictly follow and fully reflect the political principles and criteria of Hong Kong people administering Hong Kong, with patriots as the main body, and provide institutional safeguards for this purpose, Wang said.

The draft clarified a series of targets for the electoral system overhaul, indicating the major principles to be followed during the reform process, including adjusting and improving the size, composition and formation method of the Election Committee  in order to expand the scope of participation. To plug the existing loopholes in the local election system, a whole-process candidacy review mechanism needs to be established. The Election Committee will be entrusted with the new function of electing a relatively large share of LegCo members and directly participating in the nomination of all candidates for the LegCo, he said.

The electoral system currently implemented in Hong Kong is determined in accordance with relevant provisions of the Basic Law, with relevant interpretations and decisions of the NPC Standing Committee, according to the draft decision. Articles 45 and 68 of the Basic Law have stipulated in principle, and Annexes I and II of the Basic Law of Hong Kong and relevant amendments have made specific provisions. 

On the basis of comprehensive analysis and comprehensive assessment, the central authorities believe that it is necessary to rectify and improve the relevant electoral system of the HKSAR at the national level, mainly to amend the methods for the selection of the Chief Executive of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region and for the formation of the Legislative Council. 

In order to maintain continuity and stability of relevant systems of the HKSAR, the revisions to be made this time in improving the electoral system may be limited to Annex I and Annex II to the Basic Law, without revising its main body, Wang said.

Stressing the imperative and importance of improving the electoral system, Wang said the rioting and turbulence that occurred in the Hong Kong society reveals that the existing electoral system in the HKSAR has clear loopholes and deficiencies, which the anti-China, destabilizing elements jumped on to take into their hands the power to administer the HKSAR.

It also sheds the light on the major principles to follow in overhauling the local electoral system and some major steps as the procedures are led by the central government with the scope of candidates and constitutions being expanded. 

The anti-extradition movement in 2019 was instigated by anti-China forces and secessionists in Hong Kong, who openly advocated "independence of Hong Kong" and used LegCo and the district council to make troubles and interfere in the HKSAR government's implementation of policies, who also tried to wrest the power of authority from the Hong Kong government, Wang noted.

"All those chaotic situations in Hong Kong showed that there are significant loopholes and flaws in the current election systems, providing opportunities for those anti-China forces that make a fuss in Hong Kong to seek power, and it's necessary to adopt measures to fix them in order to eliminate systematic risks," he said.

The deliberation laid out major principles and orientation for where the reforms are heading, and the NPC Standing Committee will have more discussion on detailed plans after the decision draft is approved, Tam Yiu-chung, a member of the National People's Congress Standing Committee, told the Global Times on Friday.

"Following the detailed plan, the HKSAR government will begin to rectify the local election laws, which may take a few months, and local authorities are believed to fully cooperate with the top legislature," Tam said.

A two-step approach, namely, "decision plus amendment," will be adopted, Wang said, adding that the NPC will make a decision in accordance with relevant laws in the first step. 

In the second step, the NPC Standing Committee will amend Annex I and Annex II to the HKSAR Basic Law in accordance with relevant laws and the NPC decision.  

The local authorities amend relevant laws after the overhaul is finished at the national level. 

Some legal experts told the Global Times in a previous interview that the NPC Standing Committee will handle the matter in the next one or two months, coming up with a detailed reform plan.

Then, the HKSAR government will spend several months to rectify a series of election laws before delivering them to be adopted by LegCo.

The overhaul process would be finalized before the next elections in Hong Kong, which are expected to be the LegCo election scheduled for September. However, it's also possible that the LegCo election will be delayed until the overhaul is finished, Tam said.

Some local media in Hong Kong predicted that the scope and scale for constitutions would be expanded and 117 district councilor seats to the Election Committee to elect the chief executive would be scrapped. And the number of seats at LegCo would be increased from 70 to 90.

"There's no detailed plan mentioned at today's meeting, but there's some principles to follow, including the principle of patriots governing Hong Kong and giving more opportunities to patriots," Tam said.

Carrie Lam, chief executive of the HKSAR government, said in a public statement on Friday that the local authority fully respects the leading role of the central authorities in overhauling the electoral system of Hong Kong, agrees on the five basic principles elaborated by Wang including fully and accurately implementing "one country, two systems," "Hong Kong people governing Hong Kong," and safeguarding the sovereignty, national security and interests of development and enhancing the governance of local authority in line with the current situation. The HKSAR government will fully cooperate to implement the improvement measures in practicing the principle of patriots governing Hong Kong. 

As there will be several elections in the next 12 months, the work of overhauling election laws is urgent and the HKSAR govt will fully assist the NPC Standing Committee to rectify Annex I and Annex II of the Basic Law, following which the local government can rectify local laws before submitting to LegCo for approval, she said. 

Central authorities have already made plans for the next steps of overhauling Annexes I and II of the Basic Law, outlining relevant arrangements, and after the decision is made by the NPC, the NPC Standing Committee will initiate the procedures of amendment in a short period, according to the draft decision.