China’s top legislative body to weigh overhaul of Hong Kong political system next week

Jeffie Lam and Lilian Cheng, South China Morning Post

Posted at Mar 23 2021 01:29 PM

The apex body of the national Chinese legislature is set to endorse the drastic shake-up of Hong Kong’s electoral system in a two-day meeting starting next Monday.

Announcing the timing of the National People’s Congress (NPC) Standing Committee meeting, state-owned CCTV said on Monday the agenda was led by the proposals to amend annexes 1 and 2 of the Basic Law, Hong Kong’s mini-constitution, which spell out the methods in picking the city’s leader and the legislature. 

“[The meeting] is an important and practical measure to exercise the relevant legislative powers granted by the NPC,” Zang Tiewei, spokesman for the standing committee’s Legislative Affairs Commission, told the state-run Xinhua news agency.

“The amendments pose great significance for upholding and improving the ‘one country, two systems’ … improving Hong Kong’s electoral system, promoting the development of a democratic political system suitable for Hong Kong’s actual situation … and safeguarding national sovereignty, security and development interests.”

Without providing more details, Tam Yiu-chung, the city’s sole delegate to the standing committee, confirmed the dates and agenda of the meeting. Whether the resolution was passed next week would depend on the progress of the talks, he said.

The national legislature overwhelmingly passed the resolution earlier this month paving the way for the overhaul which will ensure only “patriots” hold key positions of political power.

While Beijing has argued the move will ensure the city’s long-term stability and prosperity, scholars and foreign countries say the changes are a bid to decimate the opposition and a retrogression in the democratic development of Hong Kong.

At the core of the proposals endorsed by the NPC are plans to expand and give more power to the Election Committee, which selects the city’s leader and is already dominated by the pro-establishment camp.

Its membership will be increased to 1,500 by adding 300 Beijing loyalists, and it will also enjoy new powers to nominate lawmakers and send some of its own members to sit in the Legislative Council, which will be expanded to 90 seats from the current 70. A vetting committee will also be set up to screen out candidates for office deemed insufficiently patriotic.

But the stringent framework did not spell out some of the key elements regarding the overhaul, such as the ratio of the geographical constituency, functional constituency and election committee in the legislature, or how many nominations Legco hopefuls must secure from the election committee. 

The details of the proposals are expected to be revealed during the standing committee meeting.

Last week, several Beijing officials – led by Zhang Xiaoming, deputy director of the State Council’s Hong Kong and Macau Affairs Committee – had held a three-day consultative session with over 1,000 pro-establishment politicians and business leaders in the city. Zhang concluded after the sessions that the election committee should take up the biggest share of seats in the legislature.

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