Hong Kong's political reform debate casts NPC standing committee into spotlight
City holds its breath as political overhaul is discussed in Beijing meeting this week
The role of the National People's Congress Standing Committee in Hong Kong's political reform has recently been cast back into the spotlight, as it deliberates the reform framework in a week-long meeting that opens today.
According to the Chinese constitution, the Standing Committee is the NPC's permanent body.
The NPC - China's national legislature and its "highest organ of state power" - comprises about 3,000 deputies across the nation, who meet for a plenary session each spring.
When the NPC is not in session, the Standing Committee - which comprises about 170 members that represent the nation's localities and ethnic groups - meets once every two months to discuss legislative matters.
These include interpreting and proposing amendments to the nation's laws, including the constitution and the Basic Law. It also provides its views on development plans when necessary.
According to the Basic Law - Hong Kong's mini-constitution - the Standing Committee has the power to declare a state of emergency in the city, if turmoil in Hong Kong endangers national unity or security and is beyond the local government's control.
Hong Kong's sole representative in the Standing Committee is Rita Fan Hsu Lai-tai. She is the only Hongkonger who is eligible to vote on the Standing Committee's decision on the political overhaul in the city.
Twelve other Hong Kong NPC deputies have been invited to attend this week's meeting to discuss the reform, but they have only the right to speak and no power to vote on the decision.
These deputies include Basic Law Committee member Maria Tam Wai-chu and lawmakers Ma Fung-kwok and Martin Liao Cheung-kong.
NPC chairman Zhang Dejiang - who is the third-highest-ranking member in the Politburo Standing Committee, the nation's top decision-making body - heads the Communist Party's leading group on Hong Kong and Macau affairs.
This week's NPC Standing Committee meeting, which starts today and ends on Sunday, will be the committee's 10th meeting since March last year.
The Standing Committee will scrutinise Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying's report on his government's public consultation on reform for the 2017 chief executive election. The report seeks the committee's approval to go ahead with political reform in Hong Kong.
The committee's agenda for this meeting also includes examining amendments to a range of national laws. It will also scrutinise the State Council's report on the implementation of the national budget as well as the country's development plans.