The most important message from President Xi Jinping to Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor during the latter’s annual duty report conducted online on Jan 27 is his emphasis on having patriots governing Hong Kong, which he said is a fundamental principle that is key to protecting China’s national sovereignty, security and development interests and to the SAR’s long-term prosperity and stability.
What is likely, though unreported, is that the CE might have been directed to come up urgently with a master action plan to fully implement this “patriots governing Hong Kong” mandate. If so, how should it be carried out?
First and foremost is the election of the Chief Executive due in 2022. This election is of great concern because we have witnessed the opposition camp almost succeeding with its “35-plus scheme”, which has as its ultimate aim the electing of an anti-China and “US puppet” candidate to become the next CE. They even had a 10-step strategy openly promoted by the dismissed Hong Kong University associate professor Benny Tai Yiu-ting with a view to bringing total destruction to Hong Kong. Although the plot has been neutralized with 55 arrests by the National Security Branch of the Hong Kong Police, it could still rear its ugly head if the opposition succeeds in winning a majority in the coming Legislative Council election due in September this year. One way to obviate this possibility is to rely on the options provided under Article 45 of the Basic Law which allows for the appointment of the CE by consultation. This option is justifiable because Article 45 stipulates that the CE “shall be selected by election or through consultation”. The article also emphasizes that the method for selecting the CE shall be specified in the light of the “actual situation” in the HKSAR.
So, what is the “actual situation” now in Hong Kong? The stark reality is that Hong Kong has been presented with unprecedented challenges over national security and public order due to the devious plot of the opposition forces aided and abetted by foreign powers, notably the United States, in stirring highly disruptive and costly social unrest and political turmoil in 2019. Opposition leaders and activists went so far as to call on foreign countries to sanction the city and its senior officials. Their launching of the “35-plus scheme” presents the government with no option but to ensure that this does not eventuate. In the circumstances, I would recommend the selection of the CE through consultation instead, on the understanding that it would be for only one term. It should start with a selection committee consisting of highly respected citizens appointed by the central government to consult with different sectors of the society in nominating suitable candidates. Indeed, it can be based on the four different sectors of the Election Committee as per Annex One of the Basic Law. The recommended candidate is then forwarded to the National People’s Congress for endorsement. The whole process can be conducted in a transparent and democratic manner.
On the coming LegCo election, all candidates should be required to sign not only their declaration on their upholding of the Basic Law and allegiance to the SAR, they must also make further declarations concerning possession of foreign passports, BN(O) passports and whether they have received aid in the past directly or indirectly from foreign sources or local subversive elements such as Jimmy Lai Chee-ying. Instead of being vetted by a single election officer under the current practice, they should be more thoroughly vetted by an election committee with representatives from the national security branch. If they do not pass muster, they will not join the candidates for election. LegCo should also come up with a simple process for delisting any serving members for breach of the oath.
Similar requirements should be imposed for District Council elections. In the meantime, all current DC members should make the above-mentioned declarations and be subject to security check. It is likely that just by referring to their misbehavior in the past few months since their election, many of them might be disqualified forthwith and new elections for their replacement should be conducted without delay. This will put the DC house in order.
The current requirement for all civil servants to sign a declaration to uphold the Basic Law should be strictly enforced and those who fail should be dismissed promptly. To improve monitoring of civil servants, the civil service can adopt the ICAC contract term of employing all officers on two-and-a-half-year basis. The advantage of the contract system is that on every contract renewal, integrity and political vetting would be conducted, together with other additional declarations mentioned above, such as possession of BN(O) passports. It should be much easier to get rid of those questionable civil servants by simply not offering them another contract, instead of going through the cumbersome civil service disciplinary procedure that must precede every dismissal.
The same requirement should also apply to all members of the Judiciary. But as a start, there should be a reform of the Judicial Officers Recommendation Committee, with a clear mandate to ensure all recommended judicial officers must be patriots.
Another important area for reform is the universities. Many of their presidents, if not all, have been overly tolerant of their students’ uncivilized behavior and downright radicalization, leading to their radical students later turning their campus into battlegrounds against police, even storing and manufacturing firebombs on campus at the height of the social unrest. One cannot help suspecting that the reason for these university presidents’ weakness is that they brought with them the foreign universities’ aversion to interfere with student activism, or simply because they hold foreign passports and hence may have compromised allegiance. Henceforth, all our university presidents should be recruited locally or from the Chinese mainland. Many mainland universities now rank among the top 100 in the world and enjoy much higher ratings than Hong Kong’s universities. Together with the local academics, they provide a more than sufficient talent pool. Besides, they are also better equipped to help Hong Kong students partake in the mainland’s massive development.
Finally, we should also ensure that all professional bodies are run by patriots too, particularly those who are vested by law with authority to issue licenses to practice, such as the Bar Association. This is to make sure that they would not abuse their public authority to the detriment of the patriots governing Hong Kong. So, either the government takes away their authority and lets them just become a staff club or a trade union, or imposes strict requirements that all their office bearers should be patriots, including the requisite declarations and political vetting. Under this system, the current chairman of the Bar Association might be the first to go!
Given the passivity of this administration, it is unlikely that the above proposals can be taken on board on their own accord. Therefore, we can only hope that this can be promulgated as an order by the National People’s Congress in the coming plenary session in March, and it would not be subject to any judicial review in local courts.
As President Xi pointed out, only under the governance of patriots will Hong Kong maintain order, as stipulated by the Constitution and the Basic Law. Only then can Hong Kong resolve its various problems, achieve long-term peace and stability and make due contributions to national rejuvenation. “Patriots governing Hong Kong” should no longer be just a hollow slogan; firm action must be taken now!
The author is an adjunct professor of HKU Space and a Council member of the Chinese Association of Hong Kong and Macao Studies.
The views do not necessarily reflect those of China Daily.
HONG KONG NEWS