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Published: 01:00, September 15, 2021 | Updated: 08:45, September 15, 2021
Political reality made revamp of election system necessary
By Yang Sheng
Published:01:00, September 15, 2021 Updated:08:45, September 15, 2021 By Yang Sheng

Editor’s note: This is Part 1 of a series on the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region’s upcoming elections.

In the early days after Hong Kong returned to the motherland, the central authorities in Beijing adopted a “positive non-interference”, or hands-off, approach in the governance of the special administrative region, even though Beijing holds overall jurisdiction over the city by virtue of the resumption of exercising sovereignty over the region. The rationale behind this approach was based on the understanding among central decision-makers that it would boost Hong Kong residents’ confidence in the prospect of the newly established special administrative region and State leaders’ considerable confidence in the people of Hong Kong’s ability to administer the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region well.  

In order to restart advancing on the right track, the HKSAR must implement the improved electoral system effectively and ensure the principle of “patriots administering Hong Kong” holds true in exercise

The National People’s Congress passed on March 11 a decision to improve the electoral system of the HKSAR through amendments to Annex I and Annex II of the Basic Law. This move does not mean Beijing no longer trusts the people of Hong Kong or has gone back on the promise of “Hong Kong people administering Hong Kong”, but is because confrontational politics used by anti-China forces has become so destructive in recent years that the HKSAR government could not concentrate on resolving deep-seated social issues hindering Hong Kong’s socioeconomic development and efforts to elevate people’s livelihoods. The Legislative Council was one of the main battlefields for confrontational politics, which rendered the HKSAR legislature nearly dysfunctional many times and exposed major loopholes in the electoral system that had allowed anti-China groups to infiltrate the governance structure of the HKSAR. The worsening situation left the central authorities no choice but to plug the loopholes in the electoral system immediately, to ensure the precept of “patriots administering Hong Kong” remains effective and that no loopholes remain open for anti-China elements to exploit in the future.

In fact, “patriots administering Hong Kong” is not a new requirement or what some detractors labeled as an “unlawful structure”. It is a cornerstone of the “one country, two systems” principle, laid down when this innovative framework was designed. It is a matter of course for the central government to trust only staunch patriots with the administration of Hong Kong. Otherwise, there would be no guarantee that the “one country, two systems” policy is faithfully and consistently implemented. When he came up with the system innovation in the 1970s and ’80s, then-State leader Deng Xiaoping made it clear that no anti-China entities will be allowed in the governance structure of the HKSAR.

To effectively enforce this bottom line, the improved electoral system includes a Candidate Eligibility Review Committee to keep “fake patriots” out of contention for key public offices. It is a bona fide “first line of defense” against attempts to compromise the precept of “patriots administering Hong Kong” from inside the HKSAR governance structure. Committee Chairman John Lee Ka-chiu, who is also chief secretary for administration, said in a recent interview that patriots must meet four basic requirements: uphold the nation’s development interest as well as the exercise of sovereignty over Hong Kong; support and protect the country’s fundamental system and constitutional order; uphold Hong Kong’s prosperity and stability; and respect the Chinese nation. As for the “no-no list”, it includes, but is not limited to: harming the country’s national security, pursuing Hong Kong independence, seeking a “Hong Kong constitution” or self-determination, and pushing the city back under foreign rule. He also emphasized that criticism of or disagreement with the government alone does not make one unpatriotic or unqualified to hold public office. Those two lists are reasonable, legitimate and constitutional under the “one country, two systems” principle as well as the Basic Law. 

In order to restart advancing on the right track, the HKSAR must implement the improved electoral system effectively and ensure the principle of “patriots administering Hong Kong” holds true in exercise. From years of struggles in socioeconomic development to the highly destructive “black revolution” in 2019, Hong Kong found itself mired in so many problems and obstacles that it could have fallen by the wayside had the central authorities not taken the decisive steps to enact the Law of the People’s Republic of China on Safeguarding National Security in the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region and to improve Hong Kong’s electoral system through local legislation in accordance with the new amendments to Annex I and Annex II of the Basic Law. Naturally, the measures have won overwhelming public support in Hong Kong and paved the way for the HKSAR to start anew on the right track of “one country, two systems”. Now, it is up to the HKSAR to prove its mettle by completing the upcoming key elections under the improved electoral system and charge ahead with true staunch patriots at the helm.

The author is a current affairs commentator. 

The views do not necessarily reflect those of China Daily.  

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