National People's Congress

Improved NPC electoral system would be better bridge to mainland

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 20 December, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 20 December, 2012, 1:37am

Ordinarily, the results of an election for a national parliament would be top news anywhere. But the outcome of yesterday's vote to choose a new batch of locals to the National People's Congress did not generate much public attention. This is because the roles of the deputies and the way they are returned still leave a lot to be desired. Given the growing interaction between Hong Kong and the mainland, better efforts are needed to enhance their representativeness and accountability.

As in the previous contest, one third of the 36 winners are new blood. This includes former secretary for security Ambrose Lee Siu-kwong, who came second with 1,387 votes. Lee is the second former top civil servant to sit in the top legislature, after Fanny Law Fan Chiu-fun, who was also re-elected for a second term. Speaking after the vote, Lee vowed to speak up for the people. He also hoped that the country could improve safeguards on human rights along with economic growth.

The victory of more veteran figures with public administration backgrounds in a race traditionally confined to the old patriotic camp is a refreshing change. Interestingly, the outcome also appears to be less predictable than it used to be. For instance, outspoken NPC standing committee member Rita Fan Hsu Lai-tai, who topped the last poll, was re-elected with the second-lowest number of votes among the 23 incumbents. What remains unchanged is that the seats are still off-limits to the pan-democrats. The composition has yet to represent a balance of mainstream views in the community.

There is no doubt that the winners have Beijing's trust. But whether they also have the trust of the public is open to question. Despite efforts to put in place an electoral system of some sort, the process is confined to a small electorate of 1,620 people. The rumour that voters were being asked to follow an official "recommended list" further dampened confidence in the system. Further reform is essential.

The deputies also need to reach out to the community more often. We appreciate that "one country, two systems" has confined their role to national affairs. An official base for them in the city is still considered inappropriate. But it is difficult to see how they can reflect the public's views to Beijing if the people do not even know who they are. As integration with the mainland intensifies, they are expected to play a better bridging role for both sides.