China Daily (Hong Kong)

Leaders back electoral reforms to ensure ‘patriots governing HK’

CE: Asking administra­tors to be patriots an internatio­nally recognized norm

- By GANG WEN in Hong Kong

Hong Kong heavyweigh­ts on Monday endorsed electoral reforms to ensure patriots are the ones governing the city — a principle highlighte­d by the head of the central government’s top body overseeing Hong Kong affairs.

Addressing a symposium on Monday, Xia Baolong, director of the Hong Kong and Macao Affairs Office of the State Council, underscore­d the pressing need to improve the city’s electoral system to ensure the city is governed by true patriots.

In response to Xia’s remarks, Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor told reporters on a separate occasion that it’s natural to have only patriots governing the Hong Kong Special Administra­tive Region, and it is also a prerequisi­te of implementi­ng the “one country, two systems” principle.

According to the SAR’s Basic Law, the HKSAR comes directly under the central government and the CE shall be accountabl­e to both the HKSAR and central government, Lam cited.

Asking administra­tors to be patriots is not a stringent standard, but rather a minimum requiremen­t that is an internatio­nally recognized norm, she said.

The Basic Law stipulates that those administra­tors include not only the chief executive, but also principal officials, lawmakers, judges, district councilors and civil servants, and they all should love the country and safeguard national interests, Lam said.

She added that as a pioneering undertakin­g, the “one country, two systems” principle will encounter different challenges in its implementa­tion. Only by rectifying the problems in accordance with the law can the principle move forward and achieve better results, Lam said.

It’s natural for the central government to exercise its right to rectify an anomaly when it sees one, Lam continued.

Noting reforms of the SAR’s political system, to which the electoral system holds a key role, are always within the purview of the central authoritie­s, Lam said her administra­tion fully respects the central government in taking the lead on this issue and will do its utmost to cooperate.

She also said that in the next 12 months, there will be three key elections in Hong Kong — the Legislativ­e Council election; the election of the Election Committee members, who are responsibl­e for electing the chief executive; and the 2022 election for chief executive. Lam said she believes the central authoritie­s will take into account the coming elections when considerin­g the pressing need of electoral reforms.

Xia’s remarks were also backed by Hong Kong’s pro-establishm­ent lawmakers. In a joint statement, more than 30 lawmakers said that past experience, especially the protracted protest violence in 2019, offered a key lesson for Hong Kong — allowing those who are unpatrioti­c to assume public office would be disastrous.

Only through full implementa­tion of “patriots governing Hong Kong” can the city get rid of internal disturbanc­es and have more room for “Hong Kong people governing Hong Kong with a high degree of autonomy”, the statement read.

Tam Yiu-chung, a Hong Kong member of the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress, also called for an early implementa­tion of electoral reform, considerin­g the disruption­s that would follow having antigovern­ment activists govern the city. He hopes the society can reach a consensus to prevent those disrupters from participat­ing in the city’s administra­tion.

Hong Kong business tycoon Peter Lam Kin-ngok, who chairs the Hong Kong Trade Developmen­t Council, said the principle of “patriots governing Hong Kong” is in line with Hong Kong’s overall interests, as a stable society is conducive for the city’s deeper integratio­n into the nation’s developmen­t.

Maggie Chan Man-ki, founding president of the Small and Medium Law Firms Associatio­n of Hong Kong, said the principle is the bottom line of Hong Kong’s electoral system. A Hong Kong deputy to the National People’s Congress, Chan said she will submit a suggestion at the upcoming National People’s Congress session in early March that calls for establishi­ng a vetting system for Hong Kong’s public officers.

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