The standing committee of the National People's Congress hold a meeting in Beijing on December 23, 2020. Photo: Xinhua

HONG KONG – China’s central government is mulling the removal of the 117 seats representing Hong Kong’s district council from the 1,200-strong Chief Executive Election Committee and five so-called “super functional constituency” seats from the 70-member Legislative Council (LegCo).

Citing sources from the pro-Beijing camp, several Hong Kong newspapers reported on Tuesday that Beijing was going to fill the Election Committee with 117 members of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC).

In November 2019, the pro-democracy camp won 385 out of 452 seats in the district council elections. That result allows it to control 117 seats in the Election Committee, on top of its current 300 seats.

If Hong Kong’s business community, which has about 100 votes in the Election Committee, and the pro-democracy camp join hands, then they will become the king-makers in the next chief executive election in March 2022.

A pro-democracy demonstrator sits in front of the Communist Party Flag and the Chinese Flag outside the Central Government Office in Hong Kong. Photo: Vernon Yuen/NurPhoto/AFP

The five functional constituency seats representing the district council will also be removed from the LegCo, reports said.

These proposals were disclosed by Hong Kong media on the first day of a five-day meeting of the standing committee of the National People’s Congress (NPC) on Tuesday. If they are endorsed in the meeting, they will be approved at the NPC’s next plenary session, which is set to start on March 5, 2021, according to the South China Morning Post.

On Wednesday, Shen Chunyao, director of the Legislative Affairs Commission of the NPC’s standing committee, declined to say whether the NPC standing committee meeting would discuss Hong Kong.

Tam Yiu-chung, the sole Hong Kong member in the NPC standing committee, told media in Beijing that he had not yet seen any agenda item about Hong Kong issues. Tam said usually all the discussion topics were revealed in the beginning of each NPC standing committee meeting but there were rare cases where sensitive topics would be announced at the end of a meeting.

HK01.com reported that the NPC would announce on Saturday the disqualification of about 100 pro-democracy district councilors for allegedly advocating Hong Kong independence or seeking foreign powers to intervene in Hong Kong’s internal affairs.

Other reports said the remaining district councilors would be required to take an oath of allegiance to Hong Kong and the Basic Law, which now includes the Beijing-imposed National Security Law. Those who refuse to take the oath will be disqualified and vacancies will be filled with people appointed by the government.

Some pro-establishment politicians told media anonymously that Beijing had recently asked them for suggestions on how to change the election systems to block the pro-democracy camp from winning a majority in the LegCo election in September 2021 and influence the chief executive election in March 2022.

They said they had suggested increasing the requirements for people to register as voters of the functional constituencies in LegCo, especially in the sectors that democrats could easily win.

Ma Ngok, an associate professor of the Government and Public Administration Department at The Chinese University of Hong Kong, told Apple Daily that it was not surprising if Beijing wanted to disqualify democratic district councilors or change the election systems to suit its needs.

Former Democratic Party lawmaker James To said Beijing would definitely extend its power to cover Hong Kong’s district councils so as to exert absolute control over the political situation in the territory. He slammed Beijing for not respecting the views of Hongkongers who voted for the pan-democrats during the last district council elections.

Tsuen Wan district councilor Lester Shum estimated that more than 100 councilors would be disqualified for refusing to uphold the oath of allegiance. Shum added that in his estimation the replacement councilors appointed by the government would probably not serve the people.

Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam delivers her policy address in the Legislative Council in November. Photo: Vernon Yuen/NurPhoto/AFP

Ip Kwok-him, a pro-establishment lawmaker of the Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong and an Executive Council member, said it was good to review whether district councilors should be allowed to join the Election Committee as the district council should only be a consultative body.

Ip said the functions of the district council should also be reviewed because many incumbent councilors had overly focused on political issues instead of the people’s livelihoods.

On November 11, the NPC standing committee announced the disqualification of four pro-democracy LegCo members. The decision triggered a mass resignation of Hong Kong opposition legislators.

On November 17, Liaison Office deputy chief Zhang Xiaoming said in a speech during the Basic Law 30th Anniversary Legal Summit that the principles of “patriots administering Hong Kong” and “kicking out those who oppose China and disrupt Hong Kong” had become a legal framework for Hong Kong.

Citing Zhang’s speech, Lau Siu-kai, the vice-president of the Chinese Association of Hong Kong and Macau Studies, said he expected that the new requirements would be imposed on the district council and the Election Committee.

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