One of the major reasons for Beijing to fundamentally revamp Hong Kong’s electoral system is to safeguard national security by making sure that Hong Kong will not become a base of subversion. The imperative to safeguard national security becomes even more prominent with the arrival of the new US president. After a period of observation, the intransigent and aggressive stance of the Biden administration toward China has convinced Beijing that the US will try, with the support of its Western allies, to contain, isolate, weaken, destabilize and “Westernize” China “without any baselines”. From Beijing’s point of view, the ultimate aim of the US is to minimize China’s “threat” to the US and to compel China to work “only” within the “international order” devised and dominated by the US. Beijing is worried about Hong Kong, as an open and free society and yet with a substantial proportion of its people harboring anti-China sentiments, being sinisterly exploited by the US and its Western allies as a beachhead against China.
The most important and effective safeguard is the vetting mechanism installed to scrutinize the qualification of the candidates in the elections for the Election Committee, the Chief Executive and the Legislative Council
The deep involvement of the US and its Western allies in Hong Kong’s decade-long turmoil has alarmed and angered Beijing. Western forces are not satisfied with only instigating protests, riots and violence in Hong Kong. More threateningly, by encouraging, organizing, training, financing and directing their agents in Hong Kong, Western forces had helped them to get elected to the Election Committee for the Chief Executive, Legislative Council and District Councils. In the last couple of years, when Hong Kong was embroiled in an unprecedentedly serious political crisis, Western forces and their Hong Kong agents even aspired to get a like-minded person to become the next Chief Executive of Hong Kong. If they succeed in achieving their political goals, the Hong Kong regime will fall into the hands of Western forces and their local agents, and the security of China and the socialist system on the Mainland will be under serious danger.
To forestall such calamities, Beijing is determined to plug the loopholes in Hong Kong’s electoral system, making it impossible for Western agents to get into Hong Kong’s governance through electoral means. Several features in the drastically revamped electoral system of Hong Kong are designed with the explicit purpose of safeguarding national security.
The most important and effective safeguard is the vetting mechanism installed to scrutinize the qualification of the candidates in the elections for the Election Committee, the Chief Executive and the Legislative Council. I can imagine that the vetting process will be very rigorous. Significantly, the national security agencies from Hong Kong and the Mainland will play an essential role in the vetting process. I expect the vetting mechanism to pay particular attention to the external connections of the candidates, meaning that those candidates who are affiliated in one way or another with the US and its Western allies will be disqualified. Candidates with Taiwan connections also will not be permitted to take part in the elections. In Beijing’s eyes, Taiwan has also played an infamous role in Hong Kong’s riots and Taiwan will increasingly be used by the US to wreak havoc in Hong Kong and the Mainland. It is noteworthy that no appeal channel is available to those people who are denied candidacy by the vetting body. As such, national security secrets coming out of the vetting process will not be made public by the judicial process, and Western forces will be denied the means to subvert the vetting process by putting pressure on the judges.
Another important safeguard is to greatly reduce the proportion of Western sympathizers in the Election Committee and the Legislative Council. While not Western agents, these Western sympathizers will play the role of loyal oppositionists. The loyal oppositionists are willing to accept the reality of the Chinese Communist Party running China and to work within the constitutional order made up by the nation’s Constitution and the Hong Kong Basic Law. Nevertheless, their belief in Western values and their essentially anti-communist proclivity still might allow them to occasionally serve as the informal “agents” of the West. Given their insignificant presence in Hong Kong’s governance, the loyal opposition will only have limited impact on national security.
Yet another safeguard is to minimize the impact of the anti-China, anti-communist public opinion in Hong Kong’s elections. Previously, in view of the fact that half, or even a bit more, of Hongkongers support the confrontational anti-Beijing tactics adopted by the Western agents, the Western agents were thus able to win more than half of the seats in the direct elections and a majority of the seats in the professional sectors of the functional constituencies. Even though these Western agents were in the minority in the Legislative Council, they still were able to greatly obstruct the operation of the legislature and through this to hamper the work of the government. These Western agents in the legislature were also able to use the status and resources made available to them to organize and mobilize mass protests against Beijing and the Hong Kong government. The new electoral system enlarges the legislature from 70 members to 90 members. Forty members will be elected by the Election Committee and they will be staunch supporters of Beijing and the Hong Kong government. The original 35 functional constituencies seats are reduced to 30, and the six seats previously allotted to the representatives of the District Councils are eliminated. This means that the influence of opposition public opinion in the functional constituency elections will decrease. Most significantly, the number of seats allotted to direct elections, where Western agents all along enjoy a comparative advantage, will be sizably cut to 20 from 35. What is more is that the “two seats (each electoral district) and single vote” formula is going to replace the “proportional representation” method. In the past, extreme and radical oppositionists, who also represented forces cultivated by the West, were able to win some seats in the legislature under the proportional representation system with low proportions of total votes. In the next Legislative Council elections, under the “two seats, single vote” formula, all candidates have to strive to win a plurality or a majority of the votes in an electoral district, in effect leaving no chance for the extreme and radical candidates to win. This new formula will guarantee that the patriotic candidates will win at least half of the seats in the direct elections.
All in all, the fact that the patriots will occupy an overwhelming majority of the seats in the new legislature and that they will be guaranteed at least half of the seats from direct elections mean that from now on the patriotic candidates can afford to completely disregard that segment of public opinion behind the opposition. In the past, patriotic candidates thought they had to pay some heed to or even to placate that segment of public opinion in order to increase their chance of electoral victory. The existence of such political need sometimes would impel the patriotic legislators to oppose the Hong Kong government, resulting in a less cooperative executive-legislative relationship and undermining solidarity in the patriotic camp, creating thus a political wedge that could be exploited by Western forces and their local agents.
All these prominent features embedded in the revamped electoral system of Hong Kong together help build a watertight rampart to safeguard national security and prevent Hong Kong from becoming a base of subversion. Accordingly, the days when the Western forces can capitalize on the loopholes in Hong Kong’s electoral system to serve their geopolitical interests are over.
This author is a professor emeritus of sociology at the Chinese University of Hong Kong and vice-president of the Chinese Association of Hong Kong and Macao Studies.
Source：China Daily ［2021-04-08］