On July 9, Chief Executive John Lee Ka-chiu signed the District Councils (Amendment) Ordinance 2023, passed by the Legislative Council pursuant to Article 48(3) of the Basic Law, marking the completion of district administration review, paving the way for the next district council (DC) elections on Dec 10.
The reform in DC elections was governed by three main principles: prioritizing national security and ensuring the apolitical nature of district councils; safeguarding the “patriots administering Hong Kong” principle for the effective governance of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region; and enhancing district mobilization capabilities with an emphasis on depoliticization to strengthen the executive-led system.
These three principles will prevent political agitators from using the DC platform to plot against the central and HKSAR governments.
After the 2019 riots, the 17 district councils were controlled by members of the “mutual destruction” clan, who used the platform, which was meant to serve residents and promote their livelihood, to obstruct governance and act as pawns for anti-China foreign forces to disrupt Hong Kong.
Not long ago, in 2020, a considerable number of DC members of the clan provided venues for Benny Tai Yiu-ting and Joshua Wong Chi-fung, suspected offenders against the National Security Law for Hong Kong (NSL), to organize the so-called “LegCo primary election”. Ignoring the warnings of both the central and HKSAR governments, they provided offices and assistants, funded by public resources, to assist the so-called “primary election” — part of a plot to subvert the HKSAR government in a brazen violation of the NSL.
We all could recall the violent acts of thugs, such as beating up innocent residents, smashing property, looting, and even arson during the 2019 riots. An elderly man was killed by a brick thrown by a rioter. Another man had oil poured over his body and was burned. Residents lived in fear every day. Outrageously, those so-called “pan-democrat” DC members failed to condemn these evil acts and draw a clear line between them and the rioters. Instead, they often appeared at scene of the riots to obstruct the police, and repeatedly incited the rioters before the NSL was enacted. Worse still, they used their district-councilor status to initiate petitions and set up street booths to oppose the NSL.
The electoral system for the new DCs according to the Basic Law is expected to get DCs back on track
They also used the DCs as a platform for political tricks. They acted beyond their power under the District Councils Ordinance by establishing the so-called “security and constitutional committees” and made unfounded accusations against HKSAR government officials.
They tried to vilify the Police Force and the HKSAR government by spreading fake news such as “demonstrators being raped by police officers”, “protesters being sent to the mainland”, “residents being forced to commit suicide”, and “mainland police officers pretending to be Hong Kong police officers”. They even passed an impromptu motion to “condemn” and call for the dismissal of the then commissioner of police, Chris Tang Ping-keung, who had been in office for less than two months.
With the support of foreign forces, those district councilors of the “mutual destruction” clan thought the central government had no recourse against them and thus had no hesitation to intensify their actions of damaging Hong Kong’s interests. Their later resigning abruptly from office or fleeing abroad served as the best portrait of their self-destructive behavior.
Unfortunately, those opportunists took advantage of the political tension in 2019 to get elected to the DCs. The reformed electoral system for DCs will enable DCs to return to their intended purpose of serving residents.
As we all know, under the Basic Law and the District Councils Ordinance, DCs are district-level advisory bodies whose duty is to advise the executive branch on district affairs, unlike the functions of LegCo. As such, DCs are nonpolitical local advisory bodies. The emphasis on depoliticization in the district administration review was fully justified. The purpose of depoliticization is to prevent DCs from becoming a political playground for political agitators and losing their original function of tackling district-level issues.
The electoral system for the new DCs according to the Basic Law is expected to get DCs back on track.
More professionals are expected to join the DCs, which can better serve the residents of their respective districts. With the introduction of appointed seats, capable people from all walks of life willing to serve the community will have an alternative way to join DCs. With professionals from diverse backgrounds, DCs can do a better job explaining and promoting government policies to enhance the public understanding of local issues and avoid unnecessary misconceptions.
The author is a barrister, a part-time researcher of Shenzhen University Hong Kong and the Macao Basic Law Research Center, and chairman of the Chinese Dream Think Tank.
The views do not necessarily reflect those of China Daily.
HONG KONG NEWS