Hong Kong's new electoral system: What's next?
As the legislative changes adopted by the National People's Congress (NPC) Standing Committee on improving Hong Kong's electoral system went into effect on Wednesday, the global financial hub officially embarked on the local legislation.
"A VERY TIGHT SCHEDULE"
"We have a very tight schedule," Hong Kong lawmaker Horace Cheung said with regards to drawing up the legislative work agenda for the coming months.
Cheung, the newly-elected deputy chairman of a Legislative Council (LegCo) subcommittee on improving Hong Kong's electoral system, will race against time with his colleagues to deliberate on amendments to more than 20 principal and subsidiary ordinances from mid-April.
"It's a complicated, challenging task. We will go all out to finish the legislation at an early date," he said ahead of the committee's Wednesday meeting, the second since its establishment on March 19.
The amended Annex I and Annex II to the Basic Law of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (HKSAR) were passed on Tuesday at a session of the NPC Standing Committee with a unanimous vote from all 167 committee members in attendance.
The two annexes respectively concern the method for the selection of the HKSAR chief executive and the method for the formation of the HKSAR LegCo and its voting procedures.
THREE MAJOR ELECTIONS
Elaborating on the government timetable, HKSAR Chief Executive Carrie Lam pledged on Tuesday that no effort will be spared in pushing forward the necessary amendments to the local electoral legislation in accordance with the amended Annex I and Annex II.
Lam's remarks were made at a press conference after her meeting with LegCo President Andrew Leung.
The government will propose an omnibus bill that contains multiple amended electoral laws to the legislature in mid-April, she said. Echoing Lam's words, Leung said the LegCo will arrange additional meetings so that the deliberation process will be able to advance at full speed.
After the passage of local electoral laws, Hong Kong will be able to hold three major electoral events in the next 12 months, for the seventh-term LegCo, the Election Committee and the HKSAR chief executive.
With the new electoral system taking shape, the global financial hub will be able to build a political structure that upholds the "one country, two systems" principle, reflects the actual situation of Hong Kong, and ensures "patriots administering Hong Kong," observers said.
As an important part of the improvement to the electoral system, the Election Committee membership has been expanded from 1,200 to 1,500 and has been empowered with two more functions of electing a relatively large proportion of LegCo members and participating in the nominations of all LegCo candidates.
FROM CHAOS TO STABILITY
The improvement to the electoral system came as another major step taken by the central authorities since the national security legislation in the HKSAR to help ensure peace and prosperity in Hong Kong.
Not only will the electoral chaos that repeatedly occurred in the past be ended, but the legislature will be able to better supervise the government, make constructive proposals and improve the efficiency of administration, Tu Haiming, chairman of the Hong Kong New Era Development Thinktank, said, adding that many deep-seated problems from housing to youth development will be resolved.
Echoing Tu's words, Maria Tam, deputy director of the HKSAR Basic Law Committee under the NPC Standing Committee, said more capable talents will emerge through the improved electoral system and help Hong Kong better respond to challenges and opportunities in the future.
And most pertinently, the global financial hub will bid farewell to street violence, social disturbances and the political chaos that haunted its residents and businesses during recent years.
Joephy Chan clearly remembers the dark days. When seeking re-election as a District Council member in 2019, the 31-year-old and her team faced enormous threats to their personal safety.
"We suffered from verbal abuse and physical attacks on the streets and some people also threatened online to 'teach us a lesson'," said Chan, who lost the election.
GETTING DOWN TO BUSINESS
With the wrongs corrected and the fundamentals set right, the global financial hub is set to get down to business.
Allan Zeman, a business magnate who founded Lan Kwai Fong Group in Hong Kong, believes the Hong Kong economy battered by unrest and COVID-19 will have the chance to regain momentum by fitting into the national landscape, in particular the development of the Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macao Greater Bay Area.
"I think going forward, the Greater Bay Area will be Hong Kong's strength," Zeman said.
Looking ahead, Carrie Lam said the HKSAR will be able to leverage its unique advantages and the staunch support of the central authorities to develop its economy and improve people's livelihoods.
The steadfast and successful implementation of "one country, two systems" as well as the long-term prosperity and stability of Hong Kong will be assured, she added.