NPC approves HK electoral reform bills
Amendments to Annex I and II to SAR's Basic Law take effect on Wednesday
China's top legislature unanimously passed bills on Tuesday to amend the electoral system of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region.
The 27th session of the Standing Committee of the 13th National People's Congress adopted amendments to Annex I and Annex II to Hong Kong's Basic Law at the two-day session, which concluded on Tuesday. The two annexes deal with the method of selection of Hong Kong's chief executive and the formation and voting procedures of the Legislative Council.
The amended annexes were promulgated in two presidential orders signed by President Xi Jinping and takes effect on Wednesday, replacing the original annexes and related amendments.
The new amendments have brought changes to Hong Kong's current electoral system, mainly in the formation of the Election Committee, which is responsible for selecting Hong Kong's chief executive and part of the Legislative Council.
The composition of the Election Committee will increase from 1,200 members from four sectors to 1,500 members from five sectors.
The original 117 seats from district councils have been removed from the committee.
The Election Committee has also been given the new function of electing 40 members for the Legislative Council, which has been expanded to 90 seats from 70.
Under the amendments, the new composition of the Legislative Council will also include 30 members from functional constituencies－five seats fewer－and 20 from geographical constituencies through district elections, instead of the original 35.
The original five geographical constituencies have been increased to 10, with each constituency providing two members by direct voting, replacing the original proportional representation method.
All candidates must also pass through a newly created vetting committee, which will determine their qualifications for election based on information provided by the national security unit of the police. No appeal will be allowed once eligibility is decided.
China's top legislator, Li Zhanshu, said the passing of the NPC decision on improving the electoral system of the HKSAR earlier this month and the two amended annexes fully demonstrate the resolution and common will of the Chinese people, including Hong Kong compatriots, in safeguarding national sovereignty, security and development interests, as well as the constitutional order of the SAR.
A democratic electoral system suiting Hong Kong's legal status and reality has taken shape as a result of the amendments, said Li, chairman of the NPC Standing Committee, while presiding over the closing meeting of the session.
These new constitutional arrangements are of great significance in upholding the constitutional order in the HKSAR as established by the Constitution and the Basic Law, and ensuring that the principle of "one country, two systems" remains unchanged, is unwaveringly upheld, and is not bent or distorted in practice in Hong Kong, Li added.
He said the HKSAR will amend relevant local laws in accordance with the Basic Law in a timely manner, promptly implement matters related to improving the HKSAR electoral system, and organize and regulate relevant election activities according to the law.
With the implementation of the improved electoral system and the principle of "patriots administering Hong Kong", the central government's overall jurisdiction over the HKSAR will be effectively implemented, Li noted.
This will also markedly enhance the governance efficacy of the HKSAR and effectively address the various deep-seated problems of Hong Kong, he added.
The Foreign Ministry said in a statement that the adoption reflects the common aspirations of the Chinese people, and the move is to develop, in a gradual and orderly manner, a democratic system that is in line with the constitutional order of Hong Kong.
It will better ensure extensive and balanced political participation of Hong Kong residents and serve the interests of all social strata, all sectors and all parties of Hong Kong society, it added.
Deng Zhonghua, deputy director of the Hong Kong and Macao Affairs Office of the State Council, said the ratio of the Legislative Council members was decided after consulting with various sectors of Hong Kong society.
The design is based on considerations that the Election Committee-elected members represent the interests of the entire Hong Kong society, whereas other members mainly represent the interests of sectors and local constituencies, Deng said. Therefore, the design enables the Legislative Council to better represent Hong Kong as a whole, he added.
Deng also said that the removal of the district council seats was made because their practice in recent years has seriously deviated from the duty stipulated by the Basic Law, which is to be consulted by the SAR government on district administration and other affairs, and the district councils are not organs of political power.
Such deviation was caused by a large proportion of these councilors occupying seats of the Election Committee and the Legislative Council, changing the nature and positioning of the district councils and exerting excessive influence on the overall politics. They have even become important platforms for some people to engage in anti-China activities, and therefore their political functions must be weakened, he added.
As for the vetting committee, Deng said it is to ensure that candidates meet general eligibility requirements, such as age, nationality and criminal record, as well as the statutory requirements of paying allegiance to Basic Law and the SAR so as to fully implement the principle of "patriots administering Hong Kong".
He stressed that the purpose is to exclude anti-China disrupters from continuing to sit openly in the Legislative Council chamber and engage in rebellious activities against the country, but it doesn't mean that the opposition camp or dissent will be crushed.
As long as those who want to participate in the election meet the criteria of patriots, get enough nominations and are approved by the vetting committee, they can be candidates or eventually elected, Deng said, adding that Hong Kong will continue to have a diversified and tolerant political culture.
In a statement released on Tuesday, the Hong Kong and Macao Affairs Office of the State Council announced its firm support for the changes, saying they mend the loopholes and deficiencies of the current electoral system.
Administration by patriots
It is a fundamental political principle, naturally and universally recognized, that political power should be held by patriots. Only in this way can the fundamental "one country, two systems" purpose be implemented and the political risks staged by external forces and their political agents be eliminated, the statement said.
This is also the only way that can help Hong Kong shake off endless political strife and growing radical forces and focus on economic development, so as to genuinely promote the well-being of the general public, it said.
Hong Kong is now embarking on a new phase of development, the statement said. People will see the rights and freedoms enjoyed by Hong Kong people better protected, the city's status as an international financial, trade and shipping center more firmly established, and the various deep-rooted conflicts and problems that have long plagued Hong Kong more effectively resolved.
Zhang Yong, deputy head of the Legislative Affairs Commission of the NPC Standing Committee, said the amendments have far-reaching significance.
They ensure that patriotic forces steadily and overwhelmingly prevail in the Election Committee and the Legislative Council and anti-China disrupters have no access to the organs of power under any circumstances, Zhang said.
They also help enhance local governance efficacy by resolving the long-standing confrontation between the Legislative Council and executive authorities, disputes within the Legislative Council and stagnated democratic development, laying the foundation for the ultimate goal of universal suffrage, he added.
Xinhua contributed to this story.