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Monday, June 01, 2020, 00:18
No place for clowns in the Legislative Council
By Mark Pinkstone
Monday, June 01, 2020, 00:18 By Mark Pinkstone

The recent spat in the Legislative Council over the election of a chairman for its House Committee and the enactment of a national anthem law is indicative of the behavior of some of its members elected by Hong Kong voters. Graphic scenes depicted on television, newspapers and social media were akin to a performance of clowns in a circus.

Political posturing is the norm in an election year, but it should not interfere with people’s livelihood. Legislators have a duty to their constituents who vote them into their seats of power. But this power should not be abused.

Hong Kong’s 4.32 million voters in geographic constituencies and 236,760 in the functional constituencies will elect their representatives on Sept 6 for the next four years. It is expected that more than 120 candidates will vie for the 70 seats to be contested. 

The Basic Law allows for a fully elected legislature after the chief executive has been elected by universal suffrage. The next chief executive elections are not due until 2022, ruling out universal suffrage for this year’s elections. “Pro-democracy” candidates will surely use this for their platform, but reality is reality: There will be no “one man, one vote” in this year’s elections.

Even world diplomats and politicians decrying the recent arrests of 14 prominent activists cannot deny that Hong Kong’s “pan-democrat” legislators voted against the 2014 political reforms proposed by the SAR government that would have seen a 100 percent fully elected legislature by universal suffrage. It is the wish of the central government, everyone in Hong Kong and, indeed, that of the world that universal suffrage be implemented in Hong Kong. It is now up to the Hong Kong administration to put forward revised proposals to the central government for approval before being passed on to the legislature for acceptance. The world tends to forget, often as a matter of convenience, that Hong Kong is not a sovereign state and is an inalienable part of China and therefore needs the central government’s approval before changes are made to its electoral system. The only stumbling block is the number of votes required for nomination of chief executive — 150 minimum from the 1,200 Election Nominating Committee (which is also the election committee) — and 601 votes to win. The “pro-democracy” camps want open nominations.

The opposition camp’s recent windfall in the District Council elections does not necessarily mean there will be major shift in the 2020 LegCo elections. However, the District Council selections mean there will be greater strength for the “pro-democrats” in the electoral colleges for the chief executive elections in 2022. They will now secure 117 seats of the 300 in the Fourth Sector of the mainly pro-establishment electoral college. The new district councilors are, however, mainly young activists with no political background and have yet to prove their mettle.

It is absolutely necessary that there should be an opposition party to the establishment to maintain checks and balances. The opposition’s role is to be the watchdog over the performance of the administration and safeguard public spending. They are there to ensure the good health of the population, that the poor and elderly are taken care of, that our transport system runs smoothly, that our education system is not perverted by rogue teachers, and that laws are passed for the betterment and safety of Hong Kong. The opposition is not there to yell and scream and pick fights just because they can’t get their way. That is childish and achieves nothing, and will only hinder LegCo’s important legislative work, which determines many vital livelihood issues. Legislators must maintain decorum to solve differences of opinion to achieve the desired outcome for their constituents. Sometimes the wishes of the constituents are forgotten for the sake of good graphics on TV or overused cliches cited often by former journalists now active in the opposition camp.

The gullibility of some electors to vote for the candidate who makes the most noise but achieves very little is a worrying trend. Headline-grabbing politicians care little for their constituents and prefer playing political games for the heck of it. These politicians draw a monthly salary of taxpayers’ money of HK$101,000 (US$13,030) plus a 15 percent gratuity at the end of their four-year term (HK$60,600), plus annual medical expenses of up to HK$35,180, plus HK$2.7 million for office operations and HK$221,310 for entertainment. Big bucks for our representatives in LegCo. Electors should look at the performance of their representatives: Do they want a clown or a serious thinking person?

Eligible voters for both the geographic and functional constituencies should pay close attention to the performance of their representatives during the six months to ascertain their effectiveness as a legislator. The candidates should be rated according to what they can deliver and not the vociferousness of their slogan shouting. Only then can Hong Kong look forward to meaningful governance.

The author is a former chief information officer of the Hong Kong government, a PR/media consultant, and a veteran journalist. 

The views do not necessarily reflect those of China Daily. 

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