Voters line up at the Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Center in Wan Chai to cast their ballots in the 2021 Election Committee Subsector Ordinary Elections on Sept 19, 2021. (CALVIN NG / CHINA DAILY)
The Election Committee Subsector Ordinary Elections in Hong Kong on Sunday were the first to be held after the electoral system reform and thus very important.
Although only 412 candidates contested the 364 seats for 13 of the 40 subsectors in the expanded 1,500-member Election Committee, Sunday's polls saw fierce competition, with candidates seeking public support on the streets and attending online and offline forums to explain their platforms.
The 1,448 members of the Election Committee also include 325 ex-officio members validly registered, 156 nominees validly nominated, and 603 candidates returned uncontested earlier. They are expected to speak up for their voters and truthfully reflect the demands of their subsectors which include catering, traditional Chinese medicine, education, religious affairs, the National People's Congress, and legal and financial services. The new Election Committee members are respected individuals from different subsectors of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region and have put in years of professional service for the benefit of the community.
The Election Committee is a very diverse and yet inclusive body. It comprises leaders and pillars of Hong Kong, from critical thinkers, visionary entrepreneurs and globally recognized professionals to community leaders and representatives of different sections of the SAR
The Election Committee subsector elections were the first in a series of elections leading up to the chief executive's election next year to implement the system of "patriots administering Hong Kong" under the "one country, two systems" framework. "One country, two systems" implies that only those people who bear allegiance to the Hong Kong SAR and therefore the People's Republic of China can take up positions of political power in Hong Kong.
According to the amended Annex II of the Basic Law of Hong Kong passed by the National People's Congress Standing Committee in March, the Election Committee members will elect 40 of the 90 members to the Legislative Council in the election scheduled for December. As part of the electoral system reform aimed at maintaining the long-term stability of Hong Kong, the total number of LegCo seats have been increased from 70 to 90－20 seats from the directly elected geographical constituencies, 30 from the service-based indirectly elected functional constituencies, and 40 to be elected by the Election Committee.
The expansion of LegCo has strengthened democracy in Hong Kong based on its unique characteristics as a special administrative region of China. The 90-member LegCo will be more representative of Hong Kong society and uphold the spirit of patriotism.
Under the amended Annex I of the Basic Law of Hong Kong, the Election Committee has been increased from 1,200 to 1,500 seats and will continue to perform its original function of nominating candidates for the chief executive's post.
The Basic Law was approved by the NPC on April 4, 1990－before Hong Kong's return to the motherland in 1997－and while the SAR's first chief executive was elected by the 400-member Selection Committee, the seventh chief executive will be chosen by the 1,500-member Election Committee in 2022. Which means the chief executive election will have a much wider electoral basis.
The Election Committee is a very diverse and yet inclusive body. It comprises leaders and pillars of Hong Kong, from critical thinkers, visionary entrepreneurs and globally recognized professionals to community leaders and representatives of different sections of the SAR.
The improved electoral system embodies the important value of trust－that the elected leaders, professionals and workers will take care of the specific interests of their own service or professional subsectors, as well as contribute to the long term prosperity and success of Hong Kong and help it further integrate into the Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macao Greater Bay Area.
The resolution adopted by the NPC in March, which led to the electoral system reform, has also plugged the institutional loopholes in the SAR's electoral system. As such, foreign elements can no longer interfere in Hong Kong's affairs, as they did in 2019 to fuel the almost yearlong demonstrations and riots. The electoral reform also encourages all patriotic Hong Kong residents to work together to realize the great rejuvenation of the Chinese nation.
The international community should take note that Hong Kong has successfully conducted civilized and peaceful elections in the spirit of "one country, two systems" following the principle of "patriots administering Hong Kong".
Despite the turmoil and trauma fueled by foreign anti-China forces in 2019, Hong Kong has succeeded, with the assurance and assistance of the NPC Standing Committee, in implementing a people-centered electoral system which is free of corruption and partisan conflicts. We can therefore expect the improved electoral system to help Hong Kong to reach new horizons.
The author is an associate lecture of the Hong Kong Institute for Public Administration.
The views don't necessarily reflect those of China Daily.