Revamping District Council (DC) elections to reinstate the intended functions of DCs not only conforms to the actualities of Hong Kong, but also complies with what is prescribed in the law. There is no mention of “DCs” in the Basic Law; instead they are referred to as “regional organizations” under Section 5 of the Basic Law, with Article 97 specifying that, “District organizations which are not organs of political power may be established in the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region, to be consulted by the government of the Region on district administration and other affairs, or to be responsible for providing services in such fields as culture, recreation and environmental sanitation.”
Article 97 constitutes the legal basis for DCs created under British rule to be retained after the 1997 handover. As described in the District Councils Ordinance, however, DCs do not have the power to enact laws and approve government expenditures as modern parliaments do. Therefore, DCs are fundamentally different from parliaments in the West.
The central government attaches great importance to restoring the intended functions of DCs as the incumbent DCs, the sixth-term DCs, returned by the 2019 DC elections under the old election system, had gone astray under the control of political agitators who used the DCs as handy platforms to launch anti-establishment campaigns or activities in their attempts to advance their political agenda.
The central government has realized that loopholes in Hong Kong’s old election system must be plugged to deprive political agitators of any chance to act as a Trojan horse inside DCs.
One cannot find fault in the new election system which is aimed at ensuring that DCs return to their original role as consultative organizations that serve the community in conformity with the Basic Law. Supporters of former opposition parties should come to realize the irreversibility of such conformity. Aspiring district councilors have to meet the patriotic standard of loving both the country and Hong Kong.
Some supporters of former opposition parties may abstain from voting in the upcoming DC elections because they are disgruntled with the absence of their favored candidates. But instead of allowing themselves to be influenced by sentiments, it would be more advisable for them to allow rationality to prevail and look at the actualities rationally.
First, aspirants from former opposition parties have failed to meet the requirements for members of the revamped DCs. They saw slim chance of passing the eligibility review and hence did not apply for candidacy; they also failed to obtain enough nominations from the district-level District Committees, one of the requirements for candidacy, indicating that they have yet to gain convincing credibility.
Second, supporters of former opposition parties should keep pace with the times and accept the reality that DCs are no longer venues for political wrangling.
District councilors are elected to be consulted by the administration on district-level issues and to assist the administration to better serve residents of each district.
There are 171 candidates competing for 88 seats in the 44 geographical constituencies, which are to be elected directly by voters. The fierce competition in each constituency ensures only the best among the candidates will be elected.
Those voters who are unenthusiastic about the upcoming DC elections just because of the absence of their favored candidates should ask themselves: Aren’t there any alternatives among the current pool of candidates who are worthy and can serve them well in the community?
As stakeholders, contributors and beneficiaries in Hong Kong’s success, supporters of former opposition parties should not relinquish their voting rights. It does no harm to society or residents when capable patriots are elected to serve the communities
During the few tumultuous years before the promulgation of the National Security Law for Hong Kong in June 2020, DCs were politicized and mostly controlled by the DC members from the then opposition camp who only served their supporters, leaving other residents in the cold.
There was no shortage of media coverage on district councilors failing to perform their duties. For instance, it was reported that some senior residents in a district alerted a councilor to the threats posed to passers-by from a leaning tree, but their messages had fallen on deaf ears. They had to report the threats to another district councilor who responded and solved the problem.
There were of course councilors who genuinely devoted themselves to serving the community. For example, a DC candidate who previously served as a district councilor said that he managed to extend the flashing of pedestrian green lights in the district, making it more convenient for local residents to cross the street.
These contributions, albeit not major achievements, mean a lot to the district community. While government agencies wish to serve the public as much as they can, there exist many “blind spots” in the process of serving residents that will require the local leaders, including district councilors, to take part in assessing public sentiments, collecting opinions, voicing suggestions and working as a group to serve the community.
DC elections are intended to elect candidates who are passionate about serving the community. However small residents’ requests or needs may be, elected district councilors are expected to do their best in addressing them. In the eyes of ordinary residents, “well-being” is not some fanciful political agenda but an improvement in living conditions. Shouldn’t those unenthusiastic voters ask themselves the question: Do they need capable councilors to serve them and their families? If the answer is “yes”, there is no reason for them to have their hands tied by political beliefs.
Xia Baolong, director of the Hong Kong and Macao Work Office of the Communist Party of China Central Committee, attaches great importance to Hong Kong’s district-level governance. During his inspection trip to the city in April, he noted that Hong Kong is the common home of all residents, and as stakeholders, constructors and beneficiaries in this common home, they are expected to contribute to maintaining harmony and stability in Hong Kong.
As stakeholders, contributors and beneficiaries in Hong Kong’s success, supporters of former opposition parties should not relinquish their voting rights. It does no harm to society or residents when capable patriots are elected to serve the communities.
The author is vice-chairman of the Committee on Liaison with Hong Kong, Macao, Taiwan and Overseas Chinese of the National Committee of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference and chairman of the Hong Kong New Era Development Thinktank.
The views do not necessarily reflect those of China Daily.
HONG KONG NEWS