China’s top legislature adopts decision on Hong Kong’s electoral reform
Published: Mar 11, 2021 03:21 PM
Hong Kong Photo: VCG

Hong Kong Photo: VCG


Chinese lawmakers voted overwhelmingly on Thursday to adopt a decision on improving the electoral system of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (HKSAR) at the closing of the fourth session of the 13th National People's Congress (NPC), the country's top legislature, in a move to fix the loopholes in local governance. 

A total of 2,895 votes were for the draft decision, zero voted against it and one abstained. A long round of applause broke out when the decision was approved, real-time broadcast footage showed.

At Chinese Premier Li Keqiang's press conference after the two sessions concluded, Li said the decision for improving Hong Kong's electoral system is clearcut, and aims to adhere to the "one country, two systems" principle, while the principle of "patriots governing Hong Kong" will also ensure the steady implementation of the "one country, two systems."

The passage of the decision reflected a collective will to solve deep-seated political flaws in Hong Kong society that were clouding its future development, analysts said. 

One week after China's top legislature officially introduced on March 4 a comprehensive reform plan for Hong Kong's electoral system into this year's two sessions agenda, Chinese lawmakers held group discussions concerning the draft decision on improving Hong Kong's electoral reform. 

The draft decision came up with detailed measures including enhancing the functions and roles of the Election Committee for electing Legislative Council (LegCo) lawmakers and the region's chief executive, expanding the scope of candidates to make local elections more representative and setting up a high-level vetting committee to ensure candidates meet the principle of "patriots governing Hong Kong" - a fundamental baseline set by Chinese top officials on Hong Kong affairs. 

The decision came after the city experienced the most serious social turmoil in recent years, triggered by anti-government protests and instigated by radical opposition parties colluding with foreign anti-China forces. 

As a highlight of China's most important annual political meetings in 2021, Hong Kong's electoral reform will soon be implemented following the enactment of the national security law for Hong Kong, another significant piece of lawmaking to plug the loopholes in national security in the city and to restore stability after months of radical anti-government protests that turned into black-clad riots. 

Local officials, lawmakers and scholars in Hong Kong see these two pieces of legislation as major steps to fix the problems accumulated over the years since the city returned to the motherland in 1997, clarifying long-term misunderstandings over the "one country, two systems" principle and restoring the constitutional order of the city as one of China's special administrative regions (SAR).

To expand the scope of participation and reach a balanced representation, the number of seats on the Election Committee will be increased from 1,200 to 1,500. The number of seats in the LegCo will be increased from 70 to 90, with a balanced distribution of seats returned by geographical constituencies, functional constituencies and the Election Committee, according to the decision. 

The Election Committee shall be composed of 1,500 members from the five sectors with a newly added sector -- Hong Kong deputies to the NPC, Hong Kong members of the National Committee of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference and representatives of Hong Kong members of related national organizations. 

To plug existing loopholes by screening out unqualified participants in the political life in Hong Kong, a candidate qualification review committee of the HKSAR shall be established, which will be responsible for reviewing and confirming the qualifications of candidates for Election Committee members, the Chief Executive, and the LegCo members.

Members of the LegCo shall include members returned by the Election Committee, those returned by functional constituencies, and those returned by geographical constituencies through direct elections.

In accordance with the decision and the Basic Law's Annex I and Annex II amended by the NPC Standing Committee, the HKSAR shall amend relevant local laws, and organize and regulate election activities accordingly.

The Hong Kong Special Administrative Region government voiced support to the passage of decision on improving Hong Kong's electoral system and said it will provide the NPC Standing Committee with views on the composition of the five sectors of the Election Committee, with a view to ensuring the Election Committee fulfills the requirements of being broadly representative and reflecting the overall interests of Hong Kong society.