A pro-Beijing figure has urged Hong Kong to cut the ratio of seats democratically elected by the public at District Councils to 22 per cent, in order to protect future elections from “Western forces or Taiwan independence advocates.”

Rita Fan
Rita Fan. File photo: RTHK screenshot.

Under the current electoral system, 452 – over 94 per cent – of the 479 members at District Councils are directly elected by the public.

At the last election in 2019, pro-democracy candidates secured 86 per cent of the total seats in a landslide victory amid city-wide protests and unrest. The majority of them resigned in July 2021 following media reports that the government would require them to take oaths, and repay their wages and subsidies if disqualified.

Former National People’s Congress Standing Committee member Rita Fan told Ming Pao on Thursday that the poll result in 2019 made her “very afraid,” as it demonstrated that elections might not necessarily produce good representatives.

Fan told the newspaper that, if voters could be easily swayed by online speech and elect completely unqualified councillors who insult government officials at will during meetings, and do things that District Councillors are not supposed to do, then “such elections are meaningless.”

She suggested that the government could revamp the District Council election based on the electoral system of the current Legislative Council, where only around 22 per cent of the lawmakers are directly elected.

‘Patriots’ election

On Tuesday, Chief Executive John Lee said “patriots” will be appointed through “multiple channels” in future District Councils. Without clarifying, he said that he would not allow the district-level administration “to become a platform for advocating Hong Kong independence”

Fan told Ming Pao that the proposed reduction in the proportion of directly elected seats was not “punishing” the voters, but was for “self-protection” instead.

district council election 2019 november 24 (3) (Copy)
People queuing outside a poll station at Lek Yuen Estate, Shatin during the 2019 District Council election. Photo: May James/HKFP.

“We have no choice. Now there are forces spreading fallacies. These forces come from the West, or Taiwan-independence advocates. They are influencing Hong Kong’s elections,” Fan said, adding that the ratio of directly elected seats could go up if future District Councillors could serve the public while “taking care of the bigger picture.”

Another pro-Beijing figure – Lo Man-tuen – wrote in a Ming Pao op-ed on Thursday that it was “not appropriate” to comment on the formation of District Councils by measuring their level of democracy, as “many advisory bodies for the SAR government are appointed.”

Lo also said that the pro-democracy camp will be “voluntarily going into a dead-end” if they refused to take part in the upcoming District Council election.

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.

After the election overhaul, democrats from mainstream pro-democracy parties were absent from the 2021 legislative poll.

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Peter Lee is a reporter for HKFP. He was previously a freelance journalist at Initium, covering political and court news. He holds a Global Communication bachelor degree from CUHK.