'HK has no say in electoral reform'

Local | Michael Shum 26 Feb 2021

Electoral change has always been under Beijing's jurisdiction and is not something Hong Kong can dictate under a "high degree of autonomy," a former central government liaison office legal chief has said.

Beijing has the power and duty to perfect Hong Kong's political system under the constitution - a principle which should be recognized before people ask how and to what extent Hongkongers can participate in such reforms, Wang Zhenmin of Tsinghua University's Center for Hong Kong and Macau Research wrote in the People's Daily.

Beijing can execute its powers in two ways, he wrote.

"The first would be authorizing the SAR to push electoral reforms through the 'five-step' procedure. It is all written in Basic Law Annex I and II," Wang said.

The Basic Law and an interpretation by the Standing Committee of the National People's Congress in 2004 say political reforms initiated by the SAR have to go through five steps, which require the chief executive to submit a reform proposal to the standing committee.

The reform bill would then have to be passed by at least two-thirds of the 70 members of the Legislative Council before being approved by the chief executive and the NPCSC again.

But there is a second way, according to Wang, which entails the central government directly executing its powers to amend and "perfect" the electoral system in Hong Kong.

This power has always existed alongside the "five-step approach," and the SAR never had the power to make changes to its electoral system on its own, Wang said.

"When the 'five-step procedure' leads to a dead end and the electoral system reaches a point where it has to be amended, the only choice would be letting the central government perfect the system by making use of its constitutional power. It is absolutely justified and reasonable."

He also brushed off claims that Beijing directly changing the electoral system will erode Hong Kong's democracy, saying Beijing will discuss the matter with Hong Kong people.

"The SAR government and different sectors within the community will have the chance to participate in the reform Changing the electoral system doesn't mean weakening democracy. Hong Kong has to be confident in this matter," Wang said.

His message fueled speculations that Beijing will overhaul the SAR's electoral system during the "Two Sessions" meetings next month.

Changes will reportedly include removing 117 district councilors from the Election Committee that chooses the chief executive and scrapping the District Council "super seats" in the Legislative Council election.

michael.shum@singtaonewscorp.com



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