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HK govt rebukes EU's fallacies on reform of district councils

By XI TIANQI in Hong Kong | China Daily | Updated: 2023-07-08 07:23
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The Hong Kong Special Administrative Region government holds a press conference on the reform of district councils at Hong Kong Central Government Office on May 2, 2023. [CALVIN NG / CHINA DAILY]

The Hong Kong Special Administrative Region government has vehemently objected to comments by the European Union on the city's reform of district councils and its democratic development, urging it to clarify the fallacies and stop meddling with China's internal affairs.

On Thursday, 88 Hong Kong legislators unanimously passed the District Councils (Amendment) Bill 2023, which offers a reform package to redefine district councils' functions and composition, and establishes new mechanisms to punish any misconduct of district councilors.

According to the reform package, the district council seats will be reduced from 479 to 470. Among them, 88 members will be returned by geographic polls, 179 will be appointed by the SAR government, and 176 will be elected from among members of district committees.

In addition, the current 452 constituencies will be redivided into 44 larger ones. The amended bill will come into effect on July 10. The new term of district councils will begin on Jan 1.

In a statement on Thursday, a spokesperson for the SAR government stated that since 2020, many sixth-term district council members had acted against the councils' functions, including disrupting meetings and taking actions that were not in line with the councils' role as district advisory organizations.

The HKSAR government strongly urged the EU to immediately stop interfering in China's internal affairs and to focus on the internal affairs and chaos of its member states.

In a statement issued on Thursday, the Hong Kong and Macao Affairs Office of the State Council said the passage of the bill is a critical move for Hong Kong to fully implement the principle of "patriots administering Hong Kong" and continuously improve its governance.

In a separate announcement, the Liaison Office of the Central People's Government in the Hong Kong SAR said the amendment will reshape the district councils and help them return to their original role spelled out in the Basic Law.

Hong Kong Chief Executive John Lee Ka-chiu called the bill a milestone for the city's district governance, stressing the importance for Hong Kong to plug institutional loopholes and exclude destabilizing forces out of the advisory organizations.

Regina Ip Lau Suk-yee, chairwoman of the New People's Party and a lawmaker, has expressed her support for the expansion of geographical constituencies in Hong Kong. She said the larger the constituency, the more voters a candidate needs to win over, requiring them to possess more comprehensive capabilities.

Ip also noted that the number of voters in a given constituency may reach up to "80,000 or 100,000". She further added that in the future, a Hong Kong district councilor may even represent a greater electorate than a member of parliament in the United Kingdom.

The Chinese Manufacturers' Association of Hong Kong also welcomed the overhaul.

Allen Shi Lop-tak, president of the association, said the new composition ratio of the district council could attract more capable patriots from different sectors of society to promote diverse representation in the councils and give play to their functions.

This would ultimately enhance the city's administration effectiveness at district levels, he added.

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