Hong Kong's electoral improvements will bring about a "new vista" in the city's legislature, with patriotism binding everyone together "with one heart, one mind and one purpose", said Chief Secretary for Administration Matthew Cheung Kin-chung.
"That's really Hong Kong's future," Cheung told China Daily in an exclusive interview on Monday, as work began to improve the electoral system of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region and to institute safeguards for the "patriots administering Hong Kong "principle.
The new landscape Cheung envisaged will see more effective governance, under which there will be a more harmonious environment, and greater room for constructive debate over policies concerning people's livelihoods and the city's development.
But Cheung said this will not shut the door on different views from the opposition. Instead, more voices will be heard, particularly those of the grassroots and ordinary people, he added.
The size and composition of the city's Election Committee and Legislative Council constituencies will undergo adjustments, according to a decision by the National People's Congress, the country's top legislature, on March 11 on electoral improvements. The number of Election Committee members will rise from 1,200 to 1,500, while the number of seats in the legislature will increase from 70 to 90.
All people who meet the minimum requirements－patriotism, love of Hong Kong and abiding by the law－will be eligible to run for election, Cheung said.
Cheung refuted the "unfair "comments by some countries that are trying to demonize the city's electoral changes, including members of the Group of Seven. He said these countries are wrong in seeing China as a threat, as China believes in peaceful development and cooperation, not confrontation. A good case in point, he said, is the country's efforts to provide African nations with COVID-19 vaccines.
In Cheung's view, the National Security Law for Hong Kong, which took effect on June 30, the electoral revamp and the nation's 14th Five-Year Plan (2021-25), which has a chapter dedicated to the development of Hong Kong and Macao, are the "three pillars" that will stabilize Hong Kong and take the global financial hub forward.
The SAR government is considering a campaign to tell the local community and the world about the significance of the electoral revamp and to dispel rumors, Cheung said.
With three elections set to take place in the next 12 months, the government is facing a tight schedule to complete local legislation after the Standing Committee of the NPC amends Annex I and Annex II to the HKSAR's Basic Law, which will clarify the method of selection of the chief executive and the formation of Legislative Council.
The legislative polls, which were postponed last year due to the pandemic, are scheduled for Sept 5, but there is fresh speculation that there may be another delay. Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor has said that the Election Committee subsector elections will take place before the Legislative Council elections, and the chief executive election is expected to be held in March of next year.
Tight time frame
The time frame is very tight, Cheung said. But the Hong Kong SAR government will draft the bill on local legislation, work with the Legislative Council and prepare for the forthcoming elections once the details of the electoral improvements are ironed out by the Standing Committee of the NPC, he said.
The scrutiny and deliberation of the bill in the Legislative Council was expected to take at least several weeks, with a few weeks for drafting the bill, he said.
The chief executive will head a cross-sector task force on the electoral changes. "We must make it a success in the next 12 months," Cheung said.