Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam says the government will speed up its work and provide full cooperation to the Legislative Council (LegCo) in a bid to expedite a controversial Beijing-mandated overhaul of the city’s electoral system.

Meanwhile, top mainland officials are currently in town to host closed-door consultation sessions with around a thousand people to collect their views on details of the overhaul, Lam said.

Photo: Kelly Ho/HKFP.

Legislative elections are scheduled for September 5, although details such as the number of seats attributed to the LegCo constituencies, the city’s leadership election committee, or the composition of the vetting committee, are yet to be determined by the National People’s Congress Standing Committee (NPCSC).

“The timeframe is tight, we have all the steps to go through,” Lam said. “Before the NPC amends Annexes 1 and 2 of the Basic Law, I’m afraid we cannot initiate local legislation at this stage, because we need the actual content available.”

The government will not pre-determine dates for the bill’s reading in the legislature, Lam said, adding this would be “disrespectful” of its role.

However, the chief executive said that to speed up its work the government “could table the local legislation amendment bills” as soon as NPCSC announces details. The LegCo could “[add] extra sittings,” “[put] aside their other priorities,” while the government strives to “provide replies to Legco members’ enquiries within one or two days, instead of the usual one week,” Lam said.

In March, 2021, Beijing passed legislation to ensure “patriots” govern Hong Kong. The move reduced democratic representation in the legislature, tightened control of elections and introduced a pro-Beijing vetting panel to select candidates. The Hong Kong government said the overhaul would ensure the city’s stability and prosperity. But the changes also prompted international condemnation, as it makes it near-impossible for pro-democracy candidates to stand.

Closed-door consultations

Hong Kong and Macao Affairs Office Deputy Director Zhang Xiaoming, China’s Liaison Office Director Luo Huining and NPCSC Legislative Affairs Commission Deputy Director Zhang Yong are hosting more than 60 closed-door consultation sessions at the Wan Chai Convention and Exhibition Centre. According to a report by Citizen News, the process will solicit views on the electoral overhaul from about a thousand individuals over a three-day period which ends on Wednesday.

Zhang Xiaoming meets the press on March 12, 2021. Photo: RTHK screenshot.

The number of people consulted constitutes 0.02 per cent of the city’s 4.4 million registered voters, according to the news outlet.

Zhang said during the event that discussions should focus on improving the electoral system with the National People’s Congress’ decision as foundation, ”and should not be overly imaginative.”

“They have not expressed any views, the purpose of their mission here is to seek views,” Lam said, responding to questions about whether the Beijing officials have provided further details of the electoral overhaul.

“It’s not appropriate to disclose my views submitted to the Central People’s Government on the decision,” she said, adding that Beijing has previously considered opinions from stakeholders, including that of the chief executive.

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Selina Cheng

Selina Cheng is a Hong Kong journalist who previously worked with HK01, Quartz and AFP Beijing. She also covered the Umbrella Movement for AP and reported for a newspaper in France. Selina has studied investigative reporting at the Columbia Journalism School.