Xia’s remarks shed light on Hong Kong’s democratic development

Xia Baolong, director of the Hong Kong and Macao Affairs Office of the State Council, particularized five expectations for the newly inaugurated Legislative Council when he met some of its members in Shenzhen recently. 

He stressed that all legislators must be staunch patriots who fully and accurately understand the principle of “one country, two systems” and the Basic Law; that LegCo should exercise checks and balances while cooperating with the executive branch of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region government and be a defender of the executive-led governance system; that lawmakers should be diligent, pragmatic, down-to-earth and be the true representatives of the people; that they should persevere in learning and enhancing their ability in policymaking to become high-caliber administrators; and that they must work together in improving the efficiency of LegCo and creating a new look for it.

The five expectations spelled out the requirements for lawmakers in their political integrity, political literacy and caliber in maintaining a healthy political ecosystem in the legislature. They embody the essence of democracy and good governance, serving as the guidelines for lawmakers to better understand the responsibility they should duly discharge. To a certain extent, the five expectations will also aid the Hong Kong community in grasping the true meaning of “one country, two systems” and ensure its faithful implementation in the long run.

The five expectations spelled out the requirements for lawmakers in their political integrity, political literacy and caliber in maintaining a healthy political ecosystem in the legislature. They embody the essence of democracy and good governance, serving as the guidelines for lawmakers to better understand the responsibility they should duly discharge

In elucidating what makes a staunch patriot, Xia emphasized that the first batch of legislators elected under the revamped electoral system shall be, while they are performing their duties, an exemplar in articulating and exhibiting patriotism. It is a fundamental requirement for all LegCo members in terms of political integrity.

The indispensability of patriotic requirement stems from the fact that LegCo is a local legislature whose powers are delegated by the central authorities under the Basic Law, with the central authorities having the constitutional mandate to supervise its performance. This constitutional framework requires all members of LegCo to be patriotic; and legislators infringing “one country, two systems” will lose their legitimacy of holding public office.

In elaborating on the requirement of “be a defender of the executive-led system”, Xia explained that the patriots-only LegCo had laid the foundation for restoring the desired executive-legislative relationship as stipulated in the Basic Law. Legislators will have to consciously defend the executive-led governance system, and assist and cooperate with the executive branch on tackling economic and social issues while performing their duties of monitoring the government’s work. They must act in good faith in delivering constructive criticism, instead of nitpicking the government for grandstanding.

The executive-led governance system is established in the Basic Law. As a legislative body under the executive-led system, LegCo shall collaborate with the executive while exercising checks and balances. While performing their duties, members and the president of LegCo must not abuse their powers to obstruct policymaking. This is a rule they must abide by to ensure the functioning of the chamber, as well as a precondition for exercising the rights accorded to them.

In expounding on the role of legislators being the true representatives of the people, Xia highlighted the importance of meeting public expectations, addressing the community’s pressing needs and resolving critical issues besetting the general populace. It shall take their full dedication to serving the people of Hong Kong.

Xia also underscored the need for legislators to reflect the true voices of the people, for the reason that the legislature had previously been hijacked repeatedly by a minority of political zealots who showed little interest in the deep-seated issues, particularly housing problems, unemployment, economic development, etc. Not only did they fail to give due attention to these imperatives, they hindered deliberation on bills related to economic and livelihood issues, including the approval of funds urgently needed for pandemic prevention and control. Such rowdyism attracted public outcries, and must never occur again in the legislature.

In explaining the term “high-caliber administrator”, Xia said legislators must be familiar with the Constitution, the Basic Law and LegCo’s rules of procedure. They must also improve their political agility and equip themselves with a global vision and strategic mindset that will help them better serve the people.

Having high-caliber lawmakers has become all the more important because they were largely absent from the previous legislature. Former legislators displayed widespread incompetence or misconduct, including half-baked knowledge of the Constitution and Basic Law, complete disregard for the rules of procedure of the chamber, lack of vision for economic development, witlessness in tackling livelihood issues, etc. Those token members offered nothing constructive, and worse still, they had turned the legislature into a noisy political arena. The new LegCo does not need any of these saboteurs who contributed nothing but paralysis of the legislature. To properly discharge their responsibility, the lawmakers should cultivate a global vision and strategic mindset, as well as keep themselves informed about the latest affairs and knowledge necessary for policy deliberation.

In urging lawmakers to create a new look for LegCo, Xia noted that the new legislature is an entity composed of patriots sharing a common goal, which is to maintain the long-term stability and prosperity of Hong Kong and ensure the faithful implementation of “one country, two systems”. Even though their opinions on specific issues may differ, they must engage in sincere and open dialogues, look at the big picture, agree to disagree, and join forces in serving the interests of Hong Kong people. In a nutshell, the new legislature shall be a complete departure from its recent past, when anti-China subversives infiltrated the legislature, held public interest hostage, and wreaked havoc from within.

Xia’s remarks shed light on the nature and purpose of Hong Kong’s democratic development under “one country, two systems”, which is essentially to better serve national interests as well as those of Hong Kong people. The “five expectations” set out the benchmark for gauging the performance of the new legislators.

The author is a Hong Kong member of the National Committee of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference and chairman of the Hong Kong New Era Development Thinktank.

The views do not necessarily reflect those of China Daily.