HK electoral reform bill introduced to city's legislative body for first and second readings
Published: Apr 14, 2021 12:49 PM
HK LegCo File photo:VCG

HK LegCo File photo:VCG

The highly expected Hong Kong electoral reform draft bill was officially introduced to the legislative body of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region on Wednesday, and after the hearing debate, the draft will be handed in to the House Committee of the Legislative Council (LegCo). Local officials spoke highly of the draft bill as part of top-down efforts in fixing the system loopholes in Hong Kong. 

It's a comprehensive local law amendment presented in a total of eight main-body articles and 24 auxiliary articles with over 500 pages of content. It's also a major step forward after the Hong Kong electoral reform - an amendment of the Annex I and II of the Basic Law - was approved on March 30 by China's top legislature.

Under the reform structure laid out by the top legislature, there are major changes in Hong Kong local electoral system, for example, the number of seats at the LegCo will be increased from 70 to 90, with 40 lawmakers to be selected by the Election Committee. And 30 lawmakers will be elected from the functional constituencies while the directly elected seats will be reduced from 35 to 20. Also, lawmakers in many functional constituencies will still be elected by individuals and only a few by institutional voters. A new criminal offence is now being considered to put people in jail for publicly urging residents to boycott polls or cast blank votes, according to the unveiled details of the draft bill. 

Some major government officials including Chief Secretary for Administration Matthew Cheung Kin-chung and Financial Secretary Paul Chan Mo-po showed up at the LegCo meetings on Wednesday. At the meeting, Secretary for Constitutional and Mainland Affairs Erick Tsang Kwok-wai pointed out why it's necessary and urgent to conduct such reforms. 

"I believed everyone here still remembers the chaotic scenes in recent years. LegCo was paralyzed by the opposition groups, policies related to people's livelihoods have been delayed, and Hong Kong faced a governance crisis. We all experienced a sense of powerlessness," Tsang said at the meeting. 

He reiterated that the political system is within the scope of affairs of the central government, and the electoral system is an important part of it. The decision to improve the electoral system was made in accordance with the Constitution, the Basic Law and the national security law for Hong Kong, and is fully justified and reasonable. 

"We believe that by improving the electoral system, the capability of governing the city will be largely enhanced. The administrative organ and the legislative body can balance and cooperate with each other to fix deep-seated problems in the Hong Kong society," the official said. 

"From now on, only patriots or a person with recognized patriotic quality is legally and politically eligible to participate in Hong Kong's elections," Lawrence Ma, barrister and chairman at Hong Kong Legal Exchange Foundation, told the Global Times on Wednesday. 

On the polling day during the previous District Council election in 2019, many young people did not allow their senior family members to go out, or coerced them to take a day tour, or took their Hong Kong ID cards away so that the seniors were not able to vote for the pro-government candidates, Ma noted. 

"2019 was a landslide victory for the opposition because they used unfair and belligerent tactics. This loophole has to be dealt with to make sure elections are fairly conducted and any manipulation to jeopardize or sabotage an election should not be permitted," he said. And once this new election offence is put in place, we hope that all these unfair and belligerent tactics will be stopped, Ma added.