Editorial : Paradigm shift in HK politics

【明報專訊】The Standing Committee of the National People's Congress (NPCSC) has given the nod to the amendments to Annex I and Annex II of the Basic Law. The "4:3:2" plan (40 seats from the Election Committee, 30 from functional constituencies and 20 from geographical constituencies) has finally been adopted for Legislative Council elections. The number of directly elected seats will be greatly reduced, while the power of the Election Committee will significantly expand. Furthermore, the Candidate Eligibility Review Committee (CERC), a gatekeeper, will work closely with the Committee for Safeguarding National Security of the HKSAR (NSC) and the police's National Security Department (NSD).

The amendments to Annexes I and II of the Basic Law by the NPCSC are obviously on the strict side. From the markedly reduced number of LegCo's direct election seats, to the relatively high nomination threshold, to the significantly increased difficulty for pan-democrats to obtain seats, there are national elements in many aspects of the new system.

Under the new system, the Election Committee will surely assume greater power. The newly added fifth sector, comprising Hong Kong deputies to the National People's Congress (NPC), Hong Kong members of the National Committee of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC), and Hong Kong representatives of national organisations, certainly manifests the national aspect to the new system. As for professional sectors, such as the accountancy and legal sectors, some Election Committee members will also be nominated by national organisations. To run for a LegCo seat in the future, one must obtain at least two nominations from each of the five sectors of the Election Committee. Such a threshold is certainly higher than 10 sector-blind nominations. Will traditional democrats be willing to solicit support from the NPC and CPPCC for entry nominations? That is a big unknown.

All Election Committee members must be permanent residents of Hong Kong. However, the national dimension to the whole Election Committee will be more visible than before. A new office of Chief Convener will be set up under the Election Committee. It will be held by a member who occupies a leading national position. This is to ensure that at critical moments someone will lead and coordinate by taking into account the overall interests of the country. In addition, members of the CERC are also HKSAR principal officials. If there are doubts about the qualifications of a candidate, they will be vetted by the NSD and evaluated by the NSC. If they are deemed ineligible, the NSC will submit its opinions to the CERC, which will then give the final verdict. However, the NSC seems to play a more crucial role. It has an advisor appointed by the central government, which means that the central government, when necessary, can express its opinions via the organ. Chief Executive Carrie Lam, citing the "Hong Kong National Security Law", mentioned that information reviewed by the NSC cannot be disclosed, and its decisions will not be subject to judicial review. By the same logic, in the future, the authorities may not explain to the public why a candidate is disqualified.

Over the past 20 years, Hongkongers have deemed the pace of democratisation slow, while for the central government, Hong Kong politics has gone terribly wrong. From the anti-Article 23 movement, to the Occupy Central movement, to the anti-amendment storm, the central government thinks the demand for democratisation has morphed into a democratic resistance to China and the Hong Kong Independence movement. The new set-up greatly emphasises the role and functions of the nation, which is a paradigm shift for Hong Kong. The central government believes that a bottom-up approach to Hong Kong's political development can no longer be taken. In addition to "Hong Kong people administering Hong Kong", the central government also has to play a greater role. A top-down approach and the fulfilment of "one country, two systems" will allow Hong Kong to move towards "elitist politics". Such a line of thinking is exemplified in what the CE said yesterday (March 30). She mentioned that in the hope that more talents will go into politics in the future, half of the members of the technology and innovation sector of the Election Committee will be nominated by the Hong Kong members of the Chinese Academy of Sciences and the Chinese Academy of Engineering. The problem is, besides bringing in insightful individuals who used to wince at politics, there are some peculiar components on the Election Committee. It remains unknown what changes the Election Committee membership of fellow townsmen associations and District Fight Crime Committees, a new political springboard, will bring to Hong Kong's political ecology.

明報社評2021.03.31:中央把關從嚴從緊 香港政治範式轉變








paradigm shift : a great and important change in the way sth is done or thought about

vet : to make a careful and critical examination of sth

wince : to suddenly make an expression with your face that shows that you are embarrassed or feeling pain

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