Hong Kong’s revamped chief executive election committee will select a larger proportion of lawmakers in the Legislative Council (LegCo), than those elected by the public and by functional constituencies, a top Beijing official has said.

Zhang Xiaoming speaks to the press on March 18, 2021. Photo: RTHK screenshot.

Hong Kong and Macao Affairs Office Deputy Director Zhang Xiaoming met the press on Wednesday afternoon, after the end of a closed-door consultation event with about 1,000 individuals from the city to solicit their opinion on the National People’s Congress’ (NPC) March 11 decision (311 Decision) to overhaul Hong Kong’s electoral system.

The Election Committee tasked with choosing the Chief Executive, whose membership will be increased from 1,200 to 1,500, will also select a “larger proportion” of seats in the Legislative Council than those produced by functional constituencies and by geographical direct elections, Zhang said in response to a reporter’s question.

This means a 1,500-person committee will select the majority of members of Hong Kong’s legislature.

The number of seats in LegCo is set to increase from 70 to 90, according to last week’s “311 Decision.” Currently, 35 of LegCo’s seats are elected by functional constituencies representing different sectors in Hong Kong, while the rest are directly elected.

NPC deputy chair Wang Chen previously said the committee would elect a “larger proportion” of lawmakers, without specifying what the term meant.

“Many at the event also raised that district councillor[‘s seats] should be cancelled from the election committee, or to reduce them significantly,” Zhang said, adding that their opinion will be submitted to the NPC’s Standing Committee (NPCSC).

Chief Exec. Carrie Lam attends the NPC session opening ceremony in Beijing in 2019. Photo: GovHK.

The event saw 66 consultation sessions over three days, where Zhang met with over 1,000 individuals across sectors in Hong Kong, Zhang said, alongside other Chinese officials from the China Liaison Office and the National People’s Congress Standing Committee on Legal Affairs.

‘Democrats in attendance’

“We also visited or met with people famous in Hong Kong,” he said. Individuals the officials met included Hong Kong government officials and members of the LegCo, as well as representatives from the commerce and industrial, finance, labour, women’s, youth, and religious sectors, Zhang said. They also met with grassroot representatives from local districts and members of thinktanks.

Wang Chen. Photo: RTHK Screenshot.

Attendees at the consultation sessions included those from pro-establishment camps but also pan-democrats, he said, fully showing that “our seminar was broad in value and content.” They “all fully agreed” on several points, including their support for the 311 Decision and that Hong Kong should be ruled by patriots, Zhang said.

Zhang also quoted a Hong Kong media publisher in attendance: “‘If we found that we have lost, that the path has led us to an impasse, then why don’t we – with conviction – return to the starting point, find the right path, and start over again?'”

“I think what he said was insightful to all of us,” Zhang said.

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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.