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NPC extends operation of HK legislature

By ZHANG YANGFEI in Beijing and GANG WEN in Hong Kong | China Daily | Updated: 2020-08-12 07:23
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Lawmakers attend a deliberation session at the Legislative Council in Hong Kong, on June 14, 2018. [Photo by ROY LIU / CHINA DAILY]

Decision to continue term of 6th LegCo shows central govt's backing for SAR

China's top legislature on Tuesday adopted a decision to continue the operation of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region's sixth Legislative Council for no less than one year.

The Standing Committee of the 13th National People's Congress endorsed the decision at the close of its four-day meeting in Beijing. The decision stated that after the term of the sixth LegCo expires on Sept 30, it will continue to perform its duties for no less than one year until the term of the seventh LegCo begins.

The election of the seventh Legislative Council was originally scheduled for Sept 6, but was postponed by one year due to the COVID-19 pandemic in the city.

The term of the seventh Legislative Council will still be four years after its election, according to the decision.

The 21st meeting of the 13th NPC Standing Committee heard the explanation of a bill submitted by the State Council on Saturday morning asking the NPC Standing Committee to make a decision for the sixth Legislative Council to continue operation.

On Saturday afternoon, the members of the NPC Standing Committee conducted group deliberations on the draft decision. They agreed that the Legislative Council is an important part of Hong Kong's political system and exercises important powers in enacting, amending and abolishing laws, reviewing and passing fiscal budgets and approving taxation and public expenditure.

The decision by Hong Kong's chief executive and Hong Kong's Executive Council to postpone the election for one year was due to the severe situation of the local COVID-19 outbreak, they said.

The NPC Standing Committee's decision on the continued operation of the sixth Legislative Council was to maintain constitutional order and rule of law in Hong Kong and to ensure the normal administration of Hong Kong government as well as the normal operation of society, they said, adding that it is in line with the provisions of the Constitution and the Hong Kong Basic Law-the SAR's mini-constitution-and is "necessary and appropriate".

The Hong Kong and Macao Affairs Office of the State Council released a statement on Tuesday saying the decision adopted by the NPC Standing Committee is "very important and timely" and provides a solid legal basis for the sixth Legislative Council to continue performing its duties.

The statement said the reality since the return of Hong Kong to the motherland has made people increasingly aware of "who really cares for Hong Kong".

Referring to the fight against the severe acute respiratory syndrome outbreak in 2003, measures to resist the impact of the international financial crisis, support for Hong Kong's battle against the ongoing COVID pandemic and steps taken to help the city overcome unrest, solve constitutional issues and return to normal development, it said "it is the central government and 1.4 billion people from the motherland who have always been the most considerate and cared the most for Hong Kong".

The Chinese mainland has always been the biggest force supporting Hong Kong in coping with difficulties, according to the statement.

The bright future of Hong Kong lies in the comprehensive and accurate implementation of the "one country, two systems" principle and in developing and prospering together with its increasingly powerful motherland, it added.

The Liaison Office of the Central People's Government in the HKSAR said the decision, which was made in accordance with the nation's Constitution and the SAR's Basic Law, is of paramount legal authority that cannot be challenged.

With minimal effect on Hong Kong society, the decision will help the city focus on anti-pandemic work, which is the most pressing task, said a spokesperson for the office.

Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor expressed her heartfelt gratitude for the decision, noting that it safeguards the SAR's constitutional order and ensures the normal functioning of the SAR government, showing the care and support of the central authorities for the city.

Legislative Council President Andrew Leung Kwan-yuen welcomed the decision, saying it will ensure the legislature's smooth operation which will eventually help Hong Kong cope with severe economic hardship in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Legislative Council members supporting the decision said in a joint statement that the arrangement can help minimize further bickering, allowing the public to concentrate on facing the coronavirus threat.

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