CHINA NPC asked to decide HK council term

CHINA

NPC asked to decide HK council term

China Daily

08:51, August 05, 2020

Photo taken on July 1, 2020 shows the Golden Bauhinia Square after a flag-raising ceremony held by the government of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region to celebrate the 23rd anniversary of Hong Kong's return to the motherland in Hong Kong. (Photo: Xinhua)

The duration of the current term of the Legislative Council of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region should be extended by one year during the "vacuum period "resulting from the postponed election originally scheduled for Thursday, Tam Yiu-chung, a member of the Standing Committee of the National People's Congress, suggested on Monday.

A solid legal basis is needed, and that's why the HKSAR government has asked the NPC Standing Committee, China's top legislature, through the central government, to endorse the transition proposal. The NPC Standing Commitee's rulings are not subject to legal challenges in Hong Kong, he said in a one-on-one interview with China Daily.

"It is not a complex matter. I think the NPC Standing Committee will announce the arrangement in the form of a 'decision'… instead of an 'interpretation' of Basic Law provisions, because a decision will not change the policy of the Legislative Council having a four-year term," he said.

The council issue will likely be discussed at the coming NPC Standing Committee meeting from Saturday to Tuesday because it cannot be delayed, Tam said.

The SAR government announced the deferral of the election to Sept 5,2021, the day after the city hit a record high of 149 newly confirmed cases of COVID-19 on Thursday. Before that, the third wave of the pandemic had seen new cases exceed 100 a day since July 22.

"There would be a very big public health threat if 2(million) to 3 million people came out to vote on that day, plus 30,000 staff working in numerous polling stations. If a bigger implosion occurred after the election was pushed ahead, people would curse the government for risking the health of the citizens," Tam said.

Some 60 foreign countries, including the United Kingdom, have deferred elections because of COVID-19. United States President Donald Trump suggested delaying the presidential election, but disavowed the idea after opposition from members of Congress.

Yet Tam said the opposition camp in Hong Kong has not criticized the UK or the US president."It is a typical example of the double standards we have often seen," he said.

Tam said he believes the majority of legislators will be able to continue their duties in the "extended legislature".

Yet the four legislators who were disqualified from the election for not upholding the Basic Law or swearing allegiance to the Hong Kong SAR will depart, Tam said, adding that it would be contradictory to keep them.

He also mentioned that legislators Tanya Chan and Shiu Ka-chun are disqualified by law from elections for five years because they were convicted in the Occupy Central case.

Tam said he thinks the NPC Standing Committee will lay down principles governing the status of the remaining legislators without naming those who are not allowed to stay.

Motive of UK offer

Amid the disputes over the National Security Law for Hong Kong, the UK offered what it called an "escape route" to Hong Kong people who hold a British National Overseas passport, giving them the chance to apply for residency and then full citizenship after six years.

Tam, who was a member of the Preparatory Committee in the run-up to the return of Hong Kong to China in 1997, said he suspects the UK made the offer for two reasons. First, it was a political gesture to sanction Hong Kong in line with US policy. Second, after Brexit at year's end, the UK hopes to absorb the wealth, knowledge and skills of Hong Kong people to rescue its ailing economy.

He reminded Hong Kong people to think about whether it is really a lucrative offer or just lip service by the British government.

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