The political future of Hong Kong will be mapped out early next week when a high-powered committee of China’s top legislative body meets to decide the details of a controversial overhaul of the city’s electoral system.
The National People’s Congress Standing Committee (NPCSC) will meet in Beijing next Monday and Tuesday to discus a revamp which is expected not only to reshape the composition of the city’s Legislative Council (LegCo), but order specific requirements for who can and cannot be nominated as a candidate.
On Monday, according to state media Xinhua, it was decided that the 27th meeting of NPCSC will take place on March 29 and 30 in Beijing. Standing Committee Chairman, Li Zhanshu, said it would deliberate on two bills to authorise amendments to Annexes 1 and 2 of the Basic law, Hong Kong’s mini-constitution.
The annexes concern the composition of the Chief Executive Election Committee and the electoral methods for Hong Kong’s Legislative Council.
Local laws will require amendment once the NPCSC decision has been handed down. Chief Executive Carrie Lam said last week the government will table a bill as soon as possible and cooperate with the LegCo to fast-track the amendments by, for instance, shelving other bills or holding extra sittings of LegCo.
On March 11, Beijing passed a resolution aimed at ensuring “patriots” govern Hong Kong which increases the size of an Election Committee which chooses the Chief Executive from 1,200 to 1,500, while handing it new powers to nominate and elect members to the legislature.
The move will also see the number of seats in the city’s legislature rise from 70 to 90, an increase made up of those elected by the expanded Election Committee, and those returned by functional and geographical constituencies.
Critics says the changes reduce direct democratic representation in the legislature, tighten control of elections and introduce a pro-Beijing vetting panel to select candidates. The Hong Kong government said the overhaul would ensure the city’s stability and prosperity. However, the changes have prompted international condemnation because it makes it almost impossible for pro-democracy candidates to stand.
Hong Kong’s number two, Chief Secretary Matthew Cheung, said what he described as the ”decision” would be a small incision to improve Hong Kong’s electoral system.
In a blog post published on Sunday, Cheung said: “There is no change to even a word or a punctuation [mark] in Article 45 of the Basic Law stipulating the Chief Executive’s election, and to Article 68 setting out how the LegCo is formed. The ultimate goal of universal suffrage set out by these two articles absolutely unchanged.
“This fully demonstrates that the ‘Decision’ did not cause democracy to regress,” he wrote.