HK unveils District Council election reform plan, implementing 'only patriots governing the city'
Published: May 02, 2023 07:01 PM
Hong Kong Photo: VCG

Hong Kong Photo: VCG

The Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (HKSAR) government unveiled on Tuesday a detailed reform plan for the District Council election by introducing a vetting committee to screen candidates in order to fully implement the principle of "only patriots governing Hong Kong." Future elections will include direct election, appointment and mutual election of district committees.
The overall seat number of the new District Council will be 470, including 179 appointed seats, 176 mutually elected seats among district committees and 88 directly elected seats, according to the plan. To ensure national security and fully implement the principle of "only patriots governing Hong Kong," the District Council will introduce a vetting committee, and no matter how one becomes a District Council member, they must first go through the committee for candidacy confirmation, HKSAR Chief Executive (CE) John Lee Ka-chiu told at a press conference on Tuesday.
The District Council will return to the role of a non-political consultative organization positioning under Article 97 of the HKSAR Basic Law, depoliticizing its functions. The HKSAR government will optimize its consultative and service functions, Lee said.
The council chairperson will be served by a local district officer to better discharge leadership and coordination roles. The restructured District Council will assist the government and enable the government plan regional services more effectively, and unite the people while providing consultation and referral services to residents in the area.
Since 2020, a large number of District Council members have disregarded their functions by endangering national security, advocating "Hong Kong secessionism," opposing the National Security Law for Hong Kong and interfering with government administration.
Local government vowed that it won't allow District Councils to become a platform for "Hong Kong secessionism," violate the Basic Law or interfere with social governance. Also, the community will not allow District Councils to be hijacked, so institutional measures should be taken to prevent the recurrence of chaos.
Following fundamental reforms in local elections for Election Committee, Chief Executive and Legislative Council over the past few years, with the reform in District Council election, the restructuring of Hong Kong's governance framework has been largely completed, Lau Siu-kai, a consultant from the Chinese Association of Hong Kong and Macao Studies, told the Global Times on Tuesday.
"Undoubtedly, this has significant practical implications for the comprehensive and accurate implementation of One Country, Two Systems and the long-term stability of Hong Kong," Lau said.
Meanwhile, the reform will enhance the local governance by first establishing the district governance leadership committee, chaired by the Chief Secretary for Administration Chan Kwok-ki to coordinate the regional work including formulating strategic guidelines, specific policies and measures, and work priorities for regional governance; reviewing the effectiveness of regional work and resource allocation; and regularly reporting the relevant work results to the CE.
The proposed reforms now reflect and represent a greater cross-section of community's stakeholders. The District Councils in Hong Kong should only deserve to play their respective roles and functions as stipulated by the HKSAR Basic Law as consultative civil bodies serving the residents' needs, Chu Kar-kin, a veteran current affairs commentator based in Hong Kong and member of the Chinese Association of Hong Kong and Macao Studies, told the Global Times on Tuesday.
"District Councils are appropriate channels and platforms to convey official messages from authorities. The formation of the District Councils outlines a good flow of democracy in the HKSAR," Chu said.
During the press conference, Lee stressed  the necessity and urgency of restructuring the District Council based on the law and plugging loopholes in the system to prevent the District Council from being hijacked again by black-clad violence and rioters, and by anti-China forces advocating "Hong Kong secessionism."
The reform will enable the patriots to fully lead the District Council's work and help the District Council to get back to its role as consultative organizations, Lau said. "Its role of connecting the HKSAR government and local residents will be further enhanced, which won't be the platform for anti-China rioters," he added.
While the CE will appoint 179 District Council members, the 88 directly elected seats will be elected from 44 constituencies, and due to the time limit, those constituencies will be decided by the government rather than Election Committee. When the vetting committee goes through the candidacy of an individual, it will consider whether he or she uphold the Basic Law and be loyal to the HKSAR government, if it's necessary, it will take the opinion from Committee for Safeguarding National Security of the HKSAR into account.
On whether the reduction of the number of directly elected seats could reflect a local district's opinion, Lee said the reform is made based on the actual situation, taking into account the previous chaos occurred in the District Council. And the system is not singular but a comprehensive one with the improvement made after considering overall interests.
In the past, it has undertaken a wrong path of instigating the black-clad riot and violence and now it needs to get onto the correct direction, Lee said.