The inauguration of the seventh-term Legislative Council held on Jan 3 differs from previous ones conspicuously: For the first time, the lawmakers-elect took the oath of office in front of the national emblem of China; for the first time, the oath-taking ceremony was administered by the chief executive; and for the first time, the national anthem of China was played at the oath-taking ceremony. But more importantly, the new legislature is on its way to restore the fundamental roles it is supposed to play.
The introduction of improvements to Hong Kong’s electoral system in 2021 officially ushered in a new stage in the city’s political development. The new LegCo, underpinned by institutional changes that feature a greater representation and diversity of memberships as well as eligibility requirements for lawmakers, is in a much better position to facilitate changes in Hong Kong’s political landscape. This bodes well for the new LegCo discharging its constitutional responsibilities in the manner it is supposed to behave.
Each jurisdiction has its own election mechanism for its legislature. In Hong Kong, while the electoral system for the legislature has undergone several changes over the years, it remained open to the opposition camp as the result of a compromise between the traditional “pro-establishment” camp and its rivals.
Unfortunately, Hong Kong learned a painful lesson from this flawed electoral system, which was exploited by the
LegCo is in a better position than ever to restore its fundamental roles/functions in policymaking, particularly in collaborating with the executive branch
political agitators who turned the legislature into a subversive base against the country. The dysfunctionality of the legislature produced under the previous electoral system, which culminated in the political turmoil in 2019 that brought LegCo and all of Hong Kong to a standstill, highlighted the urgent need for a thorough revamp of the electoral system. The revamp of the city’s electoral system in 2021 aimed at restoring the functionality of the legislature has facilitated meaningful changes in the political landscape of Hong Kong.
Legislators shall make sure that they duly perform three roles/functions in the new LegCo: representation, supervision, and collaboration. The representative role refers to conducting in-depth legislative deliberation on behalf of their constituents. While it is necessary for them to communicate with the public and understand the needs of the community, they should also conduct extensive research and be well-informed about issues that concern the livelihoods or interests of the public. This will ensure a healthier public participation in the policymaking process, thus ensuring that the citizens’ political rights are adequately exercised.
The supervisory function, as the term suggests, is to properly monitor the performance of the executive branch of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region government. In the old days, opposition lawmakers weaponized their supervisory role to promote their own agenda by working against the government on almost everything. The genuine supervision is twofold: reviewing government policies and budgets on behalf of the public, and monitoring the progress of the government’s works, with the aim of ensuring maximum public interest by putting warranted pressure on the government.
The collaborative function is a higher-order requirement for members of LegCo under the executive-led system in Hong Kong. Unfortunately, previous lawmakers failed miserably in this area because any chance of collaboration was smothered by mindless filibustering and politicking in LegCo. Collaboration does not mean the legislature must cling to the executive branch’s apron strings. Rather, it should proactively promote policies/measures beneficial to Hong Kong, joining forces with the government. It is expected that the new legislature will work closely with the executive branch of the HKSAR government in tackling the city’s deep-seated problems in land and housing shortages, the wealth gap, social welfare and education, etc., as well as in strengthening the city’s international status and expanding the space for economic development.
The extensive scope and arduousness of these tasks entails the cooperation and collaboration of the executive branch and legislature. In the past, Hong Kong was so mired in the friction between the administration and the legislature that it was rendered ineffectual at driving major reforms. Under the new political system, LegCo is in a better position than ever to restore its fundamental roles/functions in policymaking, particularly in collaborating with the executive branch, contributing to the making of a better Hong Kong.
The author is senior research officer of the One Country Two Systems Research Institute.
The views do not necessarily reflect those of China Daily.