Focus on election reform as NPCSC sets meetings

Top News | Michael Shum 14 Jan 2021

China's top legislature will hold additional meetings at the end of the month amid speculation that Beijing will further tighten its grip on Hong Kong's elections.

The National People's Congress Standing Committee meetings are set for January 20 to 22, state media said.

Hong Kong's sole delegate Tam Yiu-chung said he was only notified on Tuesday about the additional meetings and that he has no idea if Hong Kong-related topics are on the agenda.

The NPCSC usually holds meetings every other month and rarely in two consecutive months.

Before it started its five-day meetings on December 22 last year, local media cited sources saying that Beijing was mulling changes in Hong Kong's electoral system for selecting the chief executive.

Although Tam said its not discussed then, it is understood that Beijing will still go ahead with the plan.

This comes a day after mainland sources said Beijing is considering "dramatic changes" to local elections, including the composition of the Election Committee, which picks the city's leader.

A Reuters report quoted sources as saying that Beijing will possibly curtail the influence of the pro-democracy camp on the 1,200-member Election Committee.

The Legislative Council election, which has already been postponed for a year to September, might face further delays, allowing time for Beijing to address "deficiencies" in the political system and prevent the pro-democracy camp from mustering a majority in the legislature, the report added.

After a landslide victory in last year's district council elections, the pro-democracy camp could potentially sweep the 117 seats in the district council category of the Election Committee.

China mouthpiece People's Daily also published a commentary saying there should be "systematic changes to stop those opposing the country using elections to stir up trouble."

It urged action to keep Hong Kong elections from becoming "a tool for anti-China and troublemaking forces, who must not be allowed to run for office."

Lau Siu-kai, vice president of the Chinese Association of Hong Kong and Macau Studies, said yesterday the reforms will focus on the qualification of candidates.

"As returning officers are only mid-level government officials, they cannot engage in overall political censorship that can stop anti-China troublemakers from running," Lau said.

He suggested the government establish a mechanism or department, led by a high-level official and consisting of staff from the central government's national security office in Hong Kong, to censor potential candidates.

Sha Tin district councillor Leticia Wong Man-huen from the Civic Party said she was not surprised with China's potential moves as it is "not the first time Beijing has manipulated Hong Kong elections." Wong added: "It is now simply doing so in broad daylight."

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