Improving Electoral System (Consolidated Amendments) Bill 2021
MR CHAN CHUN-YING (in Cantonese):
Deputy President, I will definitely support this important Improving Electoral System (Consolidated Amendments) Bill 2021 (“the Bill”). I would like to start with its necessity and urgency. To put it simply, this is because the constitutional development of Hong Kong has gone astray with the “mutual destruction” forces conspiring to seize power. How should Hong Kong move forward?
The National People’s Congress (“NPC”) enacted the Basic Law in 1990, prescribing the implementation of “one country, two systems”, “Hong Kong people administering Hong Kong” and “a high degree of autonomy” in Hong Kong. The Basic Law also came into effect upon the handover of sovereignty, and its implementation over the past 24 years has been generally successful. However, in recent years, there have been situations in Hong Kong which are extremely unfavourable for the full and faithful implementation of “one country, two systems”. Radical anti-China disruptors have entered the political structure of HKSAR through the Legislative Council elections and thereby took advantage of their capacity as public officers―both inside and outside the legislature―to engage in all sorts of rampant vandalism and mudslinging or even disseminate fake news, with the intention of paralysing and bad-mouthing the Government’s policy implementation, ruining people’s livelihood and the economy, and stirring up public grievances to serve their own political agenda.
I believe that all my fellow colleagues of the current-term Legislative Council share my deep feelings; and as the Chief Executive has said, she is also the main victim. In particular, a series of events arising from the legislative amendments since June 2019―the rampage of “black-clad violence“, the desecration of the national emblem and the national flag which symbolize the dignity of the country, the blatant collusion with foreign forces, the lobbying of Western countries to sanction Hong Kong with utter disregard for the interests of Hong Kong people, and other activities and acts―seriously undermined the constitutional order and social security of HKSAR. Subsequently, the anti-China disruptors took advantage of the loopholes in the electoral system and the atmosphere of “black-clad violence” back then to secure the majority of seats in the District Councils. They put aside discussions on livelihood issues such as district environmental hygiene and transport infrastructure, and had failed to do their job but turned the District Councils into platforms for promoting their own political ideologies or even the idea of “Hong Kong independence”. This shows how important it is to have an electoral system that can select candidates who truly care for the interests of Hong Kong.
Despite the enactment of the National Security Law in June last year, the “mutual destruction camp” still planned such illegal primary election as the “35+” in an attempt to take control of the Legislative Council through elections, thereby seizing the jurisdiction of HKSAR. This posed significant security risks to the political system of HKSAR or even jeopardized national sovereignty, security and development interests. Therefore, the legislative amendments this time around that seek to improve the electoral system can really brook no delay.
Following the passage of the 11 March Decision by the 13th NPC, the Standing Committee of NPC (“NPCSC”) amended Annex I to the Basic Law on Method for the Selection of the Chief Executive of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region and Annex II to the Basic Law on Method for the Formation of the Legislative Council of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region and Its Voting Procedures by substituting the original stipulations, including the “Five-step Process” of constitutional development passed by NPCSC on 31 August 2014.
Western politicians always like to refer to the selection of the Chief Executive and Members of the Legislative Council by universal suffrage in Hong Kong as agreements under the Sino-British Joint Declaration. As a matter of fact, the Sino-British Joint Declaration only provides for two aspects: that the Chief Executive shall be selected through consultations or by elections held locally, and that the Legislative Council shall be constituted by elections. There is no mention of the ultimate goal of universal suffrage. The elections of the Chief Executive and Members of the Legislative Council by universal suffrage originate from Articles 45 and 68 of the Basic Law respectively.
Both the Central Authorities and the SAR Government have been advancing towards this goal, and this was why the “Five-step Process” of constitutional development came into being. However, the turmoil over the past few years has shown the obvious flaws and deficiencies in the existing electoral system for the Chief Executive and the Legislative Council of HKSAR. If they are not rectified in time, it will be difficult to ensure the continuous implementation of the “one country, two systems” principle. For that reason, the Central Authorities took the initiative by letting NPC take the lead in improving the electoral system of HKSAR at the constitutional level, so as to guarantee the sound and sustained implementation of “one country, two systems” as well as the long-term stability and safety of Hong Kong.
The legislative amendments this time around are aimed first at implementing the principle of “patriots administering Hong Kong”. Deputy President, the governance of state affairs by patriots is a basic political ethic that applies everywhere in the world. Hence, any person who intends to stand for election as members of the Election Committee (“EC”) and Members of the Legislative Council in the future will have to be reviewed and confirmed by the Candidate Eligibility Review Committee (“CERC”), which is composed of principal officials of HKSAR and members of the public. This will effectively prevent radical anti-China disruptors from entering the political system of HKSAR through elections. Moreover, all EC members shall take an oath as the two other types of public officers do, and a mechanism for handling breach of oath will be introduced. This requirement is consistent with the statutory requirements and conditions of upholding the Basic Law and swearing allegiance to HKSAR.
Secondly, the composition of EC and the Legislative Council will be restructured to allow balanced participation of all sectors. The nomination mechanism will also be conducive to arousing greater concern among Members about the interests of various sectors of the community. The Bill presented by the Government seeks to reconstitute EC by expanding its membership from 1 200 members from four sectors previously to 1 500 members from five sectors, and to establish different methods for returning members from different subsectors. Since the handover of sovereignty, some members of the public have been only emphasizing “two systems” while losing sight of the fact that “one country” comes before “two systems”. This addition of the Fifth Sector can strengthen the representation of national interests, which will facilitate EC to consider matters from the perspectives of the country and Hong Kong, and make decisions that are in the interest of the country and Hong Kong.
The number of Members returned by geographical constituencies (“GCs”) through direct elections in the Legislative Council will be revised to 20, and the “double-seats, single-vote” method will be adopted. It is also laid down that 40 seats in the Legislative Council will be returned by EC by adopting the Block Vote method. Among functional constituencies (“FCs”), individual voters of nine FCs, including catering, commercial (second), textiles and garment, will be abolished to restore the original intention of establishing FCs and their industry-specific features, as well as enable balanced participation of those sectors in nominations and elections. All the above are new arrangements which will give a brand new look to the composition of the Legislative Council.
Apart from securing the nominations from the voters of GCs and FCs which they represent, Members returned by GCs through direct elections and FCs will also have to be nominated by no less than two but no more than four members from each sector of EC. This will raise the concern among Members returned by GCs through direct elections and FCs about the interests of various sectors of the Hong Kong community, so that they will discharge their duties as Members while keeping the interests of Hong Kong in mind.
To enable balanced participation of all sectors to ensure broad representation, the Bill provides for the addition of representatives from the small and medium enterprises subsector to the First Sector of EC, specifies a commercial (third) subsector to be composed of corporate members of the Hong Kong Chinese Enterprises Association, and add a new commercial (third) FC to the Legislative Council.Deputy President, in the current-term Legislative Council, representatives from Chinese enterprises comprise only Mr YIU Si-wing from the tourism sector and me representing the financial sector, that is, only 2 out of 70 Members. Chinese enterprises are a major stakeholder in Hong Kong’s economy. I think this move indeed reflects the continuous commitment and contribution of Chinese enterprises to Hong Kong over the years.Chinese enterprises accounted for as high as 98% of the newly listed stocks in Hong Kong last year. They have expanded their presence in Hong Kong from the traditional industries such as financial, logistics, groceries and food, tourism, real estate to various fields including clothing, food, living and travel. The entry of Chinese enterprises into the political system and their participation in HKSAR’s policy discussions together with various sectors of Hong Kong is inline with the principle of balanced participation of all sectors in the political affairs of HKSAR, and will also make the nominations and elections of the Chief Executive and Members of the Legislative Council more broadly representative.On the other hand, the Bill also seeks to amend the Elections (Corrupt and Illegal Conduct) Ordinance by introducing two new offences in order to regulate acts that manipulate or undermine elections, as well as five amendments not directly related to the amendments to Annex I and Annex II to the Basic Law but conducive to the organization of fairer and more effective public elections.
Deputy President, the Bill, if passed, would plug and rectify the existing loopholes and deficiencies in the electoral system of HKSAR to ensure that it conforms to the principles of “one country, two systems” and “patriots administering Hong Kong”. If the Chief Executive, EC members and Legislative Council Members elected by us are all politicians who love our country and Hong Kong and care about the people, the interaction between the executive and the legislative will take on a new dimension. Hong Kong will be able to put things right and get back on the right track, focusing more on improving people’s livelihood and the economy. Then, government policies will be able to address people’s pressing needs. When Hong Kong enjoys prosperity and peace with its people living and working in contentment, we will certainly enjoy a higher degree of political freedom in accordance with the Basic Law in the future and ultimately achieve the goal of wider participation in elections at all levels.
Deputy President, I completely agree with the necessity and urgency of improving the electoral system, and am deeply convinced that the Bill can enable Hong Kong to start anew. Therefore, I will support the passage of the Second Reading of the Bill presented by the Government. As for my views on the amendments, I will rise to speak again later.
I so submit. Thank you, Deputy President.