Gary Wong:Turning a new page for HK begins with Election Committee

Gary Wong Chi-him, a co-founder of Hong Kong Coalition and a board member of the Chinese Association of Hong Kong & Macao Studies has written an article “Turning a new page for HK begins with Election Committee” and published in China Daily:

On Sunday, Hong Kong is going to elect new members of the Election Committee. This is the first of the three elections since the Improving Electoral System (Consolidated Amendments) Ordinance 2021 has come into effect according to amendments to Annex I and Annex II of the Basic Law, approved by the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress, China’s top legislature.

In addition to electing Hong Kong’s chief executive, 1,500 Election Committee members are given new roles to nominate every candidate for the Legislative Council as well as electing 40 legislators in the Election Committee constituency. With such added roles, Election Committee members are more than just electorates, but part of Hong Kong’s governing team. What, then, should we expect from them? And what kind of lawmakers should we expect the Election Committee to elect?

On July 16, Xia Baolong, vice-chairman of the National Committee of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference and director of the Hong Kong and Macao Affairs Office of the State Council, envisioned that Hong Kong would have a more prosperous economy and progress in democracy upon achieving the nation’s second centennial goal, signifying the central government’s renewed commitment to the success of “one country, two systems” and good governance of Hong Kong. Xia also noted five specific requirements for Hong Kong’s governing team, including the members of LegCo, namely being staunch patriots; having strategic thinking and a broad vision to resolve tough problems with a strong sense of responsibility; serving the public with practical actions; rallying and uniting all sectors; and acting in the best interest of the country and the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region and performing their duties faithfully.

Election Committee members’ choice on our next legislators will be closely watched. As a sign of Hong Kong’s fresh start, residents will see how our new legislators measure up to the requirements as well as the huge mission ahead

Election Committee members’ choice on our next legislators will be closely watched. As a sign of Hong Kong’s fresh start, residents will see how our new legislators measure up to the requirements as well as the huge mission ahead. In addition to the principle of “patriots administering Hong Kong”, which Election Committee members will have no problem adhering to, below are four defining traits that Election Committee members may take into consideration:

First, the lawmakers should be dedicated and capable problem-solvers. Hong Kong’s deep-rooted problems are not going to be solved overnight just because an improved electoral system is implemented. Instead, it will continually take tremendous effort from Hong Kong’s administrators, day in and day out. Our legislators not only require deep understanding on various development issues, but also the capacity to find workable legislative solutions efficiently and effectively. They must stay vigilant and fully dedicated in order to outrun the little time we have left in this long twilight marathon. There is no room for distraction and part-time involvement

Second, the legislators should be conducive to rebuilding a constructive executive-legislative relationship. While filibustering in LegCo is gone, our legislators still need to find the right balance between working with the administration and keeping it in check. They must not only approve a bill, but also help explain to the public for positive reception and smooth implementation; they must not only criticize for the sake of criticizing, but also provide constructive feasible solutions in detail that might have been overlooked. They also need to work across the parties in LegCo in order to reach a consensus. Understanding that while both executive and legislative branches perform different functions, they are ultimately the same team, serving the same Hong Kong population.

Third, the legislators must think strategically with an aligned vision and mission. One key feature of the improved electoral system is the Election Committee constituency, which represents a breakthrough against the narrow interest of specific sectors, geographies or organizations for the overall and fundamental interest of Hong Kong. Amid the challenges as well as the unprecedented opportunities arising from the 14th Five-Year Plan (2021-25) as well as the Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macao Greater Bay Area development plan, coupled with the new Qianhai and Hengqin development plans, Hong Kong’s legislators, especially the 40 in the Election Committee constituency, must be able to think strategically for the long-term overall benefit of Hong Kong.

Finally, the legislators should be able to command the respect of Hong Kong’s residents. While filibusters and extreme violence are gone, benefits from the improved electoral system are yet to be seen by residents, some of whom have been frowning upon our city’s legislators over the years. Although Hong Kong is a diverse community where everyone is entitled to a view, our new legislators should be able to command the respect of our residents, who can then see and unite behind this fresh start, and the Legislative Council will regain its authority and credibility.

Under the improved electoral system, Election Committee members are becoming part of Hong Kong’s governing team and shouldering more responsibilities. It is appreciated that some Election Committee members are keeping their feet on the ground and meeting residents on the street and in the forums. And over the next months, Election Committee members are expected to continually meet residents, professionals and sector representatives to not only collect feedback but also further explain the benefits of the improved electoral system. Moreover, Election Committee members have prepared their manifestos with issues and policies they and their constituents care about and the expectations they have for the candidates. Such communications will rally more people in pursuit of good governance.

The Election Committee election will kick-start Hong Kong’s transition from chaos to good governance. It is not the end of Hong Kong’s deep-rooted problems, but rather the start of our long twilight run to solve them. Our residents are watching closely who will be elected for such historic responsibilities, for which I trust Election Committee members’ greatest endeavors and wisest choices.