HK election reforms to strengthen democracy

2021-03-30 12:03:18

Photo taken on July 14, 2020 shows the Golden Bauhinia Square in Hong Kong, July 14, 2020. [Photo/Xinhua] The recent draft decision of the National People's Congress, China's top legislature, on improving the electoral system of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region is aimed at strengthening governance in the SAR in accordance with the law. The electoral system of Hong Kong includes the methods for selection of the chief executive and elections to the Legislative Council. The goal of the move, which follows the central authorities' decision to introduce the national security law for Hong Kong last year after months of riots by radicals had brought life in the SAR to a standstill, is also to strengthen "one country, two systems", ensure "patriots administering Hong Kong" and promote further development of the city. First, the political turmoil in Hong Kong, such as the violent protests in 2019 and election of anti-China members to local District Councils through dubious means, exposed multiple loopholes in the SAR's electoral system which foreign elements, in cahoots with local radicals, exploited in an attempt to trigger a "color revolution" and grab power in the SAR. In fact, the opposition camp devised a "three-step strategy" in 2020 to wrest power from the central authorities and upend "one country, two systems". Given the grave situation, the central authorities have to improve the rule of law in Hong Kong and restore normalcy in the city. Second, the SAR's election rules are first and foremost subject to the central authorities' jurisdiction, and then to Hong Kong's right to autonomy. This means the central authorities' move is legitimate and justifiable. Third, with its return to the motherland, Hong Kong came under the overall governance system of the People's Republic of China. As such, the central authorities have the authority to draft and amend the election rules according to the nation's Constitution and the SAR's Basic Law. Fourth, it's Annex I and Annex II rather than the main body of the Basic Law that will be revised as part of the electoral system reform, and the authorization of the Standing Committee of the National People's Congress makes the revision binding on Hong Kong. Fifth, the reform, which ensures patriots administer Hong Kong, is in line with the spirit of "one country, two systems". Although under normal circumstances, the SAR should have initiated the process of revising Annex I and Annex II of the Basic Law, local radicals, with the support of their foreign backers, unleashed such mayhem in Hong Kong that the local legislature, reduced to two-thirds of its normal strength, could not convene for initiating the process. Hence, the central authorities had to do so. The central authorities have also followed the principle of consultative democracy by soliciting the views of people from all walks of life in Hong Kong, consulting top legal experts and conducting in-depth studies before revising the law, so as to ensure the reform is scientific and progressive. Yet some Western countries have been criticizing the move. While the United States has alleged the reform will destroy the democratic basis of self-governance in Hong Kong, the United Kingdom claims the move goes against the spirit of the Sino-British Joint Declaration, and the European Union, expressing concern over the issue, has hinted at imposing sanctions on China. Such blatant interference in China's internal affairs reflects, in general, the West's bias against China and, in particular, the US' hegemonic attitude and attempt to exercise long-armed jurisdiction. Some Western powers are perturbed because the election reform will prevent them from interfering in Hong Kong affairs. They were equally agitated when Hong Kong implemented the national security law last year to plug the security loopholes in the city. At the recent Sino-US meeting in Anchorage, Alaska, Beijing sent a clear signal that it wants diplomatic relations to be based on equality and reciprocity. And its determination was reflected in its instant tit-for-tat response to the EU's sanctions over so-called Xinjiang human rights problem. It's time the Western countries gave Beijing the respect and equal treatment it deserves, and be prepared for similar action if they impose sanctions on China. The electoral system reform in Hong Kong is virtually an upgrading of "one country, two systems", and a key move to advance law-based modern governance. The reform will give the SAR's election committee a bigger role to play in making Hong Kong elections more representative of the city's residents, and prevent the SAR from moving toward populism. It will also enable Hong Kong residents to root out separatists and divisive foreign elements from the city, while strengthening "one country, two systems". In short, the reform will ensure people from all sections of Hong Kong society exercise their democratic rights. By putting an end to political radicalization and foreign interference, the electoral system reform will ensure that patriots administer Hong Kong, and help shift the city's focus on resolving socioeconomic problems, boosting economic growth, improving people's livelihoods, and strengthening democracy. The author is an associate professor at the School of Law, Beihang University.The views don't necessarily represent those of China Daily.