HK election vetting committee appointment ‘authoritative, representative’
Both official and non-official members of the committee are suitable, determined patriots
Published: Jul 06, 2021 08:48 PM Updated: Jul 07, 2021 12:57 AM
John Lee Ka-chiu Photo: CFP
John Lee Ka-chiu Photo: CFP

As an important step in implementing the electoral reform in Hong Kong, the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (HKSAR) government appointed seven members to the Candidate Eligibility Review Committee (CERC) on Tuesday, led by Chief Secretary John Lee Ka-chiu with six other members, including three government officials, underscoring that the committee is authoritative, representative and fair. 

Setting up the CERC came after the National People's Congress - China's top legislature - overwhelmingly adopted a decision on improving Hong Kong's electoral system on March 11,2021 - a major step in tackling the loopholes in the city's governance structure and reflecting the implementation of the principle of "patriots governing Hong Kong." 

Hong Kong's Secretary of Security Chris Tang, Secretary for Constitutional and Mainland Affairs Erick Tsang Kwok-wai and Secretary for Home Affairs Caspar Tsui Ying-wai are the three official members of the committee, Carrie Lam announced during a press conference on Tuesday. The three non-government officials are Rita Fan Hsu Lai-tai, former president of the Legislative Council (LegCo), Elsie Leung Oi-sie, former vice-chairwoman of the Basic Law Committee and Professor Lawrence Lau Juen-yee.

"The past work experience of these seven members of the committee prove that they are courageous patriots who are believed to bravely confront external pressure in making sure anti-China forces won't enter Hong Kong governance through elections anymore," Lau Siu-kai, vice-president of the Chinese Association of Hong Kong and Macao Studies, told the Global Times on Tuesday. 

In light of the important functions of the CERC in the candidate eligibility review mechanism and the views of the community, the HKSAR government proposed to expand the composition of the CERC to include patriotic, independent and apolitical individuals when the LegCo scrutinized the bill related to the electoral reform, with a view to further enhancing the credibility of the CERC, a HKSAR government spokesperson said on Tuesday. 

"The non-official members appointed to the CERC are all patriots," who respect and uphold the fundamental system of the country and the constitutional order, the spokesperson said, noting that it will provide a very important institutional safeguard for the implementation of "patriots administering Hong Kong."

The CERC is responsible for assessing and validating the eligibility of candidates in the Election Committee members, the Chief Executive and LegCo members, according to the electoral reform details. 

The committee for safeguarding the national security of the HKSAR, by taking the assessment made by the national security department of the Hong Kong Police Force, will issue an opinion to the CERC for those who do not comply with the legal requirements and conditions.

Well-suited to the positions 

Lee, who has a background in police and security organs, was appointed by the State Council - China's cabinet - on June 25 as the new chief secretary for administration. Some experts noted that the nomination came after the Hong Kong police forces demonstrated greater loyalty than some other civil servants in the battle against the riots in 2019.

Lee is an overall administrator of government affairs, including electoral affairs, who comes from the HKPF system, and he had proved himself to be very loyal and reliable, meeting the criteria of being a staunch patriot, Tian Feilong, associate professor at Beihang University in Beijing and a member of Beijing-based Chinese Association of Hong Kong and Macao Studies, told the Global Times on Tuesday.

Lee and Tang are also seen as "hard-liners" against rioters and as law and order enforcers by many Hong Kong watchers. The latest reshuffle showcased that the HKSAR is choosing officials who are "determined patriots" and firmly support the rule of law.

Three important elections are lined up for the coming months, with the dates already set. The election for the Election Committee is on September 19, the election for LegCo on December 19, and the election for the chief executive on March 27, 2022.

The electoral reform, in coordination with the enactment of national security law for Hong Kong, will minimize foreign disturbance of Hong Kong's political environment and create a clear atmosphere for patriots to better administer the city, according to experts. 

One of the more prominent views from local communities in Hong Kong during the process of implementing electoral reform is that the CERC is expected to include a number of non-governmental prestigious members from society, and the final list of members echoed public opinion, reflecting the committee's authoritative, representative and impartial makeup, Tian said. 

Having half of the members of the committee coming from society is appropriate, Tam Yiu-chung, a member of the Standing Committee of the NPC, told the Global Times on Tuesday, noting that the three non-official members enjoy high prestige and respect in Hong Kong society. 

During an exclusive interview with the Global Times in March, Fan, one of the non-official members of the CERC and former LegCo president, pointed out that over the past few years, the local governance in Hong Kong had not been functioning well, as some from the opposition camp opposed to everything proposed by the Hong Kong government, which destroyed the government's fiscal budget plans and severely paralyzed the administration.

With no respect and no professional ethical standards, those Hong Kong lawmakers were still elected through the current system, which has deviated from the initial intention of how the electoral system was formulated under the Basic Law and the "one country, two systems" principle, Fan said. 

She also noted that the electoral reform brings Hong Kong back from the brink of collapse as its West-defined democracy turned into a power of destruction. 

"Only patriots shall govern Hong Kong, this is the election vetting gate," Tian said. "If the CERC adheres to this principle, Hong Kong's political game can embark on a healthy, legitimate and reasonable order from now on, so that Hong Kong's democratic path can be free from the shadow of populism and external interference," he noted. 

There was high enthusiasm in voter registration, as about 9,300 registration applications have been collected so far, with a voter registration rate of over 90 percent, Lam was quoted as saying in local media reports on Tuesday, which also showed that as the implementation of electoral reform, a broader representation and balanced participation is widely welcomed by voters.