Patriots only as Beijing pushes electoral reform

Top News | Michael Shum 23 Feb 2021

China must urgently introduce changes to Hong Kong's electoral system to ensure patriots fill important positions across the SAR'S executive, legislative and judicial branches, a top Beijing official responsible for affairs here said.

Xia Baolong, head of the Hong Kong and Macau Affairs Office, in his first public speech since he took up the post in February last year, said the positions cannot fall into the hands of people who oppose China and stir trouble in Hong Kong, including those who made use of scorched-earth tactics and demanded foreign sanctions against mainland and Hong Kong during the social unrest in 2019.

Xia gave the keynote speech in a virtual summit by the Chinese Association of Hong Kong and Macau Studies yesterday to set the stage for Beijing to introduce changes to Hong Kong's elections in the Two Sessions early next month. They are expected to be implemented before the Legislative Council elections in September, which were postponed from September 2020 due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

The changes are expected to bar a large number of "non-patriots" from running for election and limit their influence in the election committee to choose the city's chief executive.

Xia named three criteria for patriots, after President Xi Jinping told Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor when she reported to state leaders last month that the central government's jurisdiction over Hong Kong can only be effectively implemented when Hong Kong is ruled by patriots.

Xia said: "Patriots should be genuine in safeguarding national security, the country's sovereignty and development interests. To make it simple, the minimum threshold for patriots would be not taking part in activities that endanger national security.

"Those doing whatever it takes to attack the central government, publicly advocating Hong Kong independence, smearing the country and Hong Kong internationally and begging for sanctions against China and the SAR are undoubtedly not patriots.

"Those breaching the national security law would definitely not be on the list of patriots."

Xia said those challenging the country's "fundamental system of socialism led by the Chinese Communist Party or refusing to accept the constitutional order in Hong Kong should not be regarded as patriots."

Patriots should put their best foot forward in defending Hong Kong's prosperity and stability.

Advocates of "scorched-earth tactics," no matter whether they are activists, lawmakers or district councilors, are definitely not considered patriots.

He added that anti-China troublemakers in Hong Kong should not be allowed to have any influence on the regime, as they only bring "destruction, turmoil and terror" to Hong Kong.

With patriots defined, Xia said those taking important positions or holding crucial authority within the political structure of Hong Kong should be held to higher standards in the patriotism test.

"Those bearing important ruling responsibilities should also be familiar and confident in the one country, two systems principle, and also stand at the forefront to safeguard it," he said. "They should also push forward the implementation of one country, two systems taking into consideration the development plan of the country, and unite patriotic forces."

Xia went on to spell out five principles to ensure patriots would rule Hong Kong, including plugging the loopholes in the SAR's electoral system and a mechanism to ensure patriots fill important positions across executive, legislative, judicial and statutory bodies.

"The electoral system in Hong Kong should ensure that elections are fair and open, but able to effectively stop anti-China troublemakers in Hong Kong, or political agents of international anti-China forces from entering the regime," Xia said.

He cautioned that the electoral system should fit circumstances in Hong Kong, instead of copying overseas systems directly.

The executive-led mechanism in Hong Kong should continue, with changes to facilitate better relationships between the executive and the legislature, Xia said.

In Hong Kong, Lam said the central government has the say on Hong Kong's political structure. The SAR government will respect Beijing and fully cooperate should there be any changes to it.

She brushed off concerns that the expected changes to the electoral system in Hong Kong is aimed to suppress the opposition.

"These changes are not aimed at suppressing a certain sector of the political spectrum, but to suppress pro-independence advocates and those who are pushing Hong Kong down a path of no return," Lam said.

"Everyone can have different views towards the country and the central government - Beijing understands and tolerates those people," she said, adding political parties are allowed to oppose government policies but they still have to be patriotic and have Hong Kong's interests as their overriding consideration.

She also said "patriots ruling Hong Kong" is not a new concept, and is a minimum requirement for people taking office and a crucial factor in one country, two systems.



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