Beijing overhauls Legco, CE rules

Top News | Staff reporters 5 Mar 2021

Legislative Council seats will increase from 70 to 90, while all district councilors will be kicked off a committee electing Hong Kong's chief executive, according to electoral reforms to be spearheaded by Beijing.

More than 100 Hong Kong delegates to the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference met CPPCC vice-chairmen Zhang Qingli and Xia Baolong at the CPPCC Hall yesterday.

Xia is also director of the State Council's Hong Kong and Macau Affairs Office.

They were briefed about the key changes to be introduced to Hong Kong's electoral system, sources told Sing Tao Daily, The Standard's sister publication.

For the Legco election, the number of seats will increase to 90 - but all five district council "super seats" will be canceled.

It remains unclear how the additional 20 seats in Legco will be filled, but it was reported that Beijing is mulling creating a third constituency - on top of geographical and functional - where election committee members play a big part in electing lawmakers.

It is also understood that the Lego election has to be delayed for another year, from this September, to make time to introduce the changes.

As for the CE election, the number of members to the Election Committee will grow from 1,200 to 1,500. The number of sectors in the committee will increase from four to five.

All 117 district councillors will be removed from the committee, whereas all Hong Kong delegates to the CPPCC will automatically join it.

Anyone officially running as a CE election candidate currently needs 150 nominations. After the reform, they will have to get at least 188 nominations, with at least 15 nominations per sector.

The dramatic changes were announced as the annual session of the National Committee of the CPPCC opened in Beijing yesterday, with the National People's Congress meeting to follow today.

It was confirmed that electoral reforms in Hong Kong to ensure "patriots rule" the SAR will be hammered out in the NPC meeting, as "Improving HKSAR's electoral system" was listed as the item on the NPC agenda announced last night.

Zhang Yesui, spokesman of the annual session of the NPC, said the development in recent years showed that the electoral system in Hong Kong needs to be updated.

It is the power and responsibility of the NPC to do so.

Earlier in the day when opening the CPPCC plenary session at the Great Hall of the People, chairman of the National Committee Wang Yang said the principle of "patriots rule Hong Kong" would be fully implemented this year.

Delivering his work report in front of President Xi Jinping and other leaders, Wang said the National Committee will "resolutely support the full implementation of the principle of patriots ruling Hong Kong".

For the first time since 1997, he failed to mention one country, two systems in his speech.

"We will strengthen unity and friendship with our compatriots overseas and in Hong Kong, Macau and Taiwan, and conduct studies and consultations on strengthening patriotism education of young people in Hong Kong and Macau. Cross-strait economic and cultural exchanges will be strengthened," Wang said.

He also encouraged Hong Kong delegates to "keep speaking up" to promote the implementation of national security law in Hong Kong.

"With regard to the United States' so-called bills on Xinjiang, Tibet, and Hong Kong, as well as pandemic-related anti-China bills, and the fallacious anti-China remarks made by individual politicians, we firmly renounced these by means such as issuing statements and organizing forums.

"Our delegates also did media interviews [to refute the allegations]," Wang said.

Last year was "an extraordinary year" in China's history, he said, while 2021 is the centenary of the Chinese Communist Party and there will be a focus on strengthening theoretical and political guidance.

In a key speech last month, Xia emphasized that only patriots should be allowed to fill Hong Kong's important public positions.

Advocates of Hong Kong independence, those who smear Beijing and Hong Kong internationally and beg for foreign sanctions, and those who breach the national security law are undoubtedly not patriots, he said - fueling speculations that there will be large scale disqualification of district councilors as well as major electoral changes to screen out "non patriots."

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