A Hong Kong deputy to the national legislature on Tuesday proposed banning senior civil servants and heads of key statutory bodies from holding the right of abode overseas, as senior pro-Beijing figures in the city headed to mainland China for a major annual gathering of the country’s political elite.
Maggie Chan Man-ki’s suggestion under the central government drive for “patriots” to govern Hong Kong coincided with her colleague Ip Kwok-him saying it was likely the National People’s Congress would discuss reforming the city’s electoral systems. Ip said he expected the 117 seats currently reserved for district councillors on a pivotal committee to eventually be scrapped.
“In the 2019 polls, the opposition camp has won the majority of district council seats … If 117 of these district councillors enter the Election Committee, it will affect the chief executive poll, which is our most crucial election,” said Ip, also a Hong Kong deputy to China’s legislature.
“If these people are hostile towards China, or … even advocate Hong Kong’s independence, how can they become election committee members?”
They were speaking as Hong Kong NPC deputies – as well as delegates to the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC), the country’s top advisory body – travelled to the mainland on Tuesday in preparation for the two bodies’ plenary sessions, which start on Thursday and Friday respectively.
The political events, known as the “two sessions”, are a window to the central government’s priorities and plans for the coming year.
The politicians headed to Shenzhen on Tuesday for Covid-19 tests, and were set to fly to Beijing the following day. Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor will on Thursday travel to the capital via Shenzhen for the NPC’s opening ceremony on Friday, returning to Hong Kong through the Guangdong city on Sunday.
Apart from endorsing China’s next five-year plan, sources previously told the Post the NPC and CPPCC would scrutinise Beijing plans to shake up the city’s electoral systems based on the “patriots governing Hong Kong” principle.
Chan said she would support the central government plan to make sure that Hong Kong’s public officers bore allegiance to the city, and did not pose a national security threat.
She also urged Beijing to enact a law empowering the chief executive to set up and chair a vetting committee to assess the candidacies of those seeking election to the Legislative Council and district councils.
“I will submit my own proposals on extending the requirement of having no right of abode in a foreign country, and being Chinese Hong Kong permanent residents, to include the government’s permanent secretaries, [and heads of] important statutory bodies ... such as the [Hong Kong] Monetary Authority,” she said.
Hong Kong’s chief executive, principal officials, Executive Council advisers, Legco president and chief justice must be Chinese citizens and permanent residents of the city with no right of abode in any foreign country, under the Basic Law, the city’s mini-constitution.
NPC deputy Ma Fung-kwok also said he would not be surprised if the NPC discussed electoral reforms in Hong Kong.
“The Basic Law made it clear that district councils are just advisory bodies … I think the proportion of seats that district councillors have on certain bodies of political power can be reformed, because they now have a large proportion of seats,” the pro-establishment lawmaker said, referring to the city’s Election Committee.
The 1,200-member committee is charged with picking the city’s next leader in March next year.
Under its existing composition, a total of 117 seats are allocated to district councillors who mostly hail from the opposition camp. Sources said it was likely those seats could instead be distributed to pro-Beijing groups.
“If there is a review of the Election Committee, or the legislative and district councils’ [composition], I think this is the right time,” Ma said.
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