Eradicate national security threats and improve electoral system
Smoothly carry out policies beneficial to people
Hong Kong enters new era of good governance
18 April 2021
National Security Education Day, which falls on April 15 every year, is aimed to improve public awareness of national security, create a strong atmosphere to safeguard national security, enhance the ability to prevent and resist security risks, deepen understanding of the Constitution, the Basic Law and national security, and foster national identity.
To mark this meaningful occasion, the Committee for Safeguarding National Security of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (HKSAR) organised the National Security Education Day Opening Ceremony cum Seminars under the theme of "Uphold National Security, Safeguard Our Home" this year. A number of distinguished guests and speakers were invited to speak on the safeguarding of national security from different perspectives.
A good start to safeguard national security A common obligation shared by all
This is the first National Security Education Day held after the implementation of the Law of the People's Republic of China on Safeguarding National Security in the HKSAR (National Security Law). The HKSAR Government is committed to fulfilling its constitutional responsibility of safeguarding national security, and has the determination, confidence and ability to implement the legal system and enforcement mechanisms for safeguarding national security, thereby maintaining the long-term prosperity and stability of Hong Kong under the principle of "One Country, Two Systems".
Safeguarding national security is not only the constitutional responsibility of the HKSAR, but also the common obligation of all Hong Kong people. National security concerns everyone, young and old alike. The HKSAR Government will adopt a multi-pronged approach to improve the public's awareness of national security and sense of law-abidingness, as well as mobilise all sectors of society to play an active part in maintaining national security.
Eradicating national security threats Curbing the source of chaos
The implementation of the National Security Law has achieved instant results. Hong Kong has since restored order from chaos and returned to peace. National security is the basis for our development. As long as there remain threats to national security, Hong Kong will hardly progress further. The past chaos in the legislature that posed difficulties in policy implementation by the HKSAR Government has clearly revealed the loopholes in the current electoral system. Anti-China disruptors have taken advantage of such loopholes to become part of the HKSAR's governance structure, seriously interfering with policy implementation. They sought to seize power through elections, jeopardising national security, sovereignty and development interests. Without improvement to the electoral system, Hong Kong will never enjoy long-term peace.
Following the enactment of the National Security Law last year, the Central Government took the initiative to improve Hong Kong's electoral system by assuming constitutional responsibility and exercising central authority to solve our problems. At this critical juncture, the HKSAR Government will fully, accurately and effectively implement the "Decision plus Amendment" approach of the National People's Congress (NPC) in order to safeguard national security and political security and ensure that the power of governing the HKSAR is in the hands of those who love the country and Hong Kong.
Deliberation of the Bill
Following the adoption of the newly amended Annexes I and II to the Basic Law by the Standing Committee of the NPC on March 30 this year, the HKSAR Government is required to implement the improved electoral system by way of local legislation. The Improving Electoral System (Consolidated Amendments) Bill 2021 (the Bill) was introduced into the Legislative Council (LegCo) for first reading and second reading on April 14 and is now being scrutinised.
The Bill proposes amendments to eight existing pieces of primary legislation and 24 pieces of subsidiary legislation, details of which are available on a dedicated government website (https://www.cmab.gov.hk/improvement/en/home/index.html).
The Bill mainly comprises six key areas of amendments:
- reconstituting the Election Committee (EC), introduction of oath-taking requirement and related matters;
- providing for the method for selecting the Chief Executive (CE) and related matters;
- updating the composition and formation of the LegCo;
- updating the eligibility of becoming candidates in CE elections, EC Subsector elections and LegCo elections, and establishing the Candidate Eligibility Review Committee (CERC);
- amending the Elections (Corrupt and Illegal Conduct) Ordinance (Cap. 554) to regulate in accordance with the law acts that manipulate or sabotage elections; and
- implementing a host of measures to improve the electoral arrangements, which include implementing electronic poll register, setting up a special queue for electors in need in public elections, etc.
Reconstitution of the EC with new functions
The overall approach of improving the electoral system is centred on the reconstitution and further empowerment of the EC. The composition of the EC will change from 1 200 members in four sectors to 1 500 members in five sectors. Members of the EC subsectors will be returned by three methods, namely, ex-officio members who are holders of specified offices in the subsectors; nomination by designated bodies or organisations of the subsectors; and election by eligible bodies or individuals in the subsectors.
In addition to selecting the CE, the EC is endowed with two important new functions of returning a relatively large proportion of LegCo members and participating in nominating all candidates for the LegCo elections. As the EC subsectors and their members from different strata and areas represent the overall interests of Hong Kong, they can better meet the genuine needs of development and maintain the prosperity and stability of Hong Kong. The new functions of the EC will allow for more balanced political participation and broader political representation, as well as promote the steady progress and healthy development of democracy in Hong Kong.
All EC members will be required to fulfil the statutory requirements and conditions of "upholding the Basic Law and bearing allegiance to the HKSAR" by taking an oath, and a mechanism will be introduced to deal with scenarios where an EC member breaches an oath.
Method for selecting the CE
A CE candidate shall be nominated by not less than 188 EC members with at least 15 members from each of the five sectors. Each EC member may only nominate one candidate. The CE will be elected by secret ballot on a one-person-one-vote basis. A candidate shall obtain over 750 votes in the poll to be elected and the CE-elect shall be appointed by the Central People's Government.
Reshaping the LegCo for good governance
The reshaping of the LegCo is conducive to the implementation of an executive-led system for the sake of good governance. According to its new composition, the LegCo will comprise 90 seats, an increase from the current number of 70. Of the 90 seats, 40 will be returned by the EC, 30 by functional constituencies, and the remaining 20 by geographical constituencies (GCs) through direct elections.
Regarding direct elections, the number of GCs will be increased from the current five to ten with the re-delineation of boundaries (i.e. two on Hong Kong Island, three in Kowloon, and five in the New Territories), and two LegCo members will be returned by each GC under a double-seat, single-vote system (i.e. there are two seats in each GC and each voter may vote for one candidate). A total of 20 LegCo members will be returned by the ten GCs. The former multi-seat, proportional representation system for GC elections will be abolished.
Appointment of community leaders to enhance credibility of the CERC
The establishment of the CERC to review and confirm the eligibility of candidates for the CE as well as members of the EC and the LegCo, including whether they meet the statutory requirements and conditions of "upholding the Basic Law and bearing allegiance to the HKSAR", provides a systemic and institutional safeguard to ensure that the candidates meet the standard expected of patriots, thereby facilitating executive-legislative collaboration and strengthening executive-led governance. It was originally proposed that the chairman and all members of the CERC appointed by the CE should be Principal Officials of the HKSAR. To enhance the credibility of the CERC, the Government will introduce an amendment to the Bill to allow for the appointment of a number of community leaders to become CERC members.
Enhancement and innovation for higher efficiency
The Bill proposes to implement a host of measures to improve the electoral arrangements, which include amending the Elections (Corrupt and Illegal Conduct) Ordinance to regulate in accordance with the law acts that manipulate or sabotage elections; implementing electronic poll register to enhance efficiency and accuracy in the ballot paper issuance process; revising the inspection and compilation arrangement for the registers of electors; and setting up a special queue for elderly electors or electors in need in public elections to ensure fairness of election and protect the legitimate voting rights of citizens.
Early legislation to meet election timetable
Rendering co-operation to the LegCo, the HKSAR Government is wasting no time in seeking the passage of the Bill by the end of next month so that the extensive preparatory work for the elections may proceed. In the coming twelve months, the HKSAR Government will fulfil the arduous tasks of preparing for the three elections (i.e. the EC election, the LegCo election and the CE election) to ensure adherence to the timetable.
A promising future with abundant opportunities
Hong Kong is entering a new era of good governance. In the general ambience of a stable and harmonious society, the HKSAR Government can focus on addressing society's deep-seated problems; take forward policies beneficial to the country, the city and the people; and strive to develop the economy and improve people's livelihood so as to propel Hong Kong forward into good governance. Looking ahead from the present situation, the future of Hong Kong is promising.
Walking out of the epidemic by vaccination
While the epidemic situation is subsiding in Hong Kong, the city recorded its first confirmed case of a COVID-19 variant in the community yesterday, which is indeed worrying. Deeply concerned about the alarming signs of rebound, the HKSAR Government stays vigilant and spares no effort in source and contact tracing, with a view to cutting the virus transmission chain as early as possible by way of compulsory quarantine, compulsory testing and restriction-testing declaration.
It is worth noting that the COVID-19 Vaccination Programme will be expanded to cover persons aged 16 to 29. Persons in this age group can make reservation for the vaccination starting from 9 am this Friday (April 23). The minimum age for receiving the BioNTech vaccine is 16, and that for receiving the Sinovac vaccine is 18. To receive the vaccination, those aged 18 or above are only required to produce their identity document, while those under 18 are required to bring along a consent form signed by their parents.
If Hong Kong is to walk out of the epidemic, the general public must get vaccinated effectively. Vaccination is a matter of importance, necessity and urgency at this critical juncture. I sincerely call on members of the public to get vaccinated early so as to protect themselves, their families and friends as well as the whole community, and thereby establish an immunity barrier as soon as possible.