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National People's Congress

Who are the 11 new Hongkongers elected to China’s legislature – and what impact will they have on policy making?

While pundits predicted more professionals would be elected, many still failed to make the cut

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 19 December, 2017, 12:16pm
UPDATED : Tuesday, 19 December, 2017, 11:32pm

Hong Kong’s contingent to the country’s legislature, the National People’s Congress, had a mini-makeover on Tuesday with 11 new faces elected into its ranks, including several low profile business leaders and a former minister.

Some 49 candidates ran in the small-circle election to be among the chosen 36 delegates who represent the city in the legislature but are also widely seen as pro-Beijing in their political leanings.

All but one of the 26 incumbents retained their seats, with the sole loser among the veterans being businessman and former singer Cheung Ming-man.

After the election, NPC vice-chairman Wang Chen, who witnessed the proceedings, said the central government expected the deputies to take a leading role in four areas.

“They should take the lead in supporting Hong Kong’s chief executive and government … in forging and safeguarding social unity, harmony and stability, in caring about young people, and in promoting exchanges and cooperation between the city and the mainland,” he said.

In an election where candidates and voters alike accept that Beijing controlled the strings from behind, there were few surprises. Still, it was notable, said analysts, that the central government made plain that even among pro-establishment candidates, it had clear preferences and expectations.

Hence, while pundits had predicted more professionals would be elected, lawyer Nick Chan Hiu-fung of the Liberal Party, former Law Society president Ambrose Lam San-keung, as well as educator Wong Kwan-yu, president of the Beijing-loyalist Federation of Education Workers, did not make the cut.

Similarly, Beijing drew a line at former criminals, with Lew Mon-hung, a businessman previously jailed for perverting the course of justice, being rejected with only 257 votes.

Veteran China watcher Johnny Lau Yui-siu believed that Lam and Lew lost because they were not candidates recommended by Beijing authorities.

Commenting on Lam and Cheung’s defeat, Lau Siu-kai, vice-chairman of the Chinese Association of Hong Kong and Macau Studies, a semi-official think tank, said he believed voters considered the candidates’ “relationship with the central government”.

Johnny Lau understood that about 30 of the 49 candidates were endorsed by Beijing’s liaison office in Hong Kong, and they were all elected.

“The public can decide if this was just a coincidence or the official plan ... I think the results showed that [Beijing] was very strong in coordination,” Lau said.

The victory of relatively young businessmen such as Thomas Cheung Tsun-yung, 47, and Witman Hung, 48, showed that the electoral panel favoured candidates who could potentially be “active and influential” on the political front, analysts said.

The Liberal Party’s Chan blamed himself for coming in 37th among the candidates and narrowly losing the election.

In recent years, the Liberals had been widely regarded as the mavericks in the pro-establishment camp. But Chan rejected suggestions that his party’s image had turned hardcore Beijing loyalists away.

“I absolutely disagree that the Liberal Party means a label of ‘bad boy’,” he said, adding that he would fully support the 36 delegates and continue to work for the city and the country.

Among the new faces, veteran broker Vincent Lee Kwan-ho and singer-turned-businesswoman Cally Kwong Mei-wan were the “king and queen” of votes. Lee and Kwong received 1,594 and 1,546 votes, respectively.

Other newly elected deputies included lawyer and opponent of the 2014 Occupy movement Maggie Chan Man-ki; former constitutional and mainland affairs minister Raymond Tam Chi-yuen; and Tam Yiu-chung, a former chairman of the Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong, the city’s largest pro-establishment political party.

Incumbent member Bernard Chan, also convenor of the Executive Council, which advises the Hong Kong government, received the highest number of votes, at 1,693. Fellow incumbent Pauline Ngan Po-ling was the “queen of votes” with 1,555 ballots.

The 36 delegates will attend the annual sitting of the National People’s Congress, usually held in March, often offering policy recommendations and voicing the city’s views on hot topics of concern.

In the coming year, the delegates will have their hands full with controversial issues such as the progress towards having a security legislation such as Article 23, the national anthem law and the co-location of a cross-border high-speed rail link likely to dominate the agenda.

Tam Yiu-chung, who received 1,548 votes, is tipped to replace the retiring Rita Fan Hsu Lai-tai as the sole local delegate to the NPC Standing Committee, the country’s top legislative body.

The Standing Committee has a special role in interpreting laws, and any move to interpret laws – such as Hong Kong’s mini-constitution, the Basic Law, has always proven to stir heated debate in the city, suggesting the limits of its own freedoms.

Asked if he was ready to succeed Fan and be Hong Kong’s voice in the Standing Committee, Tam said only that he was “willing to consider taking up any other post in the future”.

Hong Kong’s future lies in the hands of its next delegates to China’s top legislature

On whether he was happy with his 1,580 votes, former minister Raymond Tam said: “It exceeded my expectation ... because I am a newcomer. I used to work in the government so I am not [affiliated] to any political party or organisation.”

Some commentators believed that the pan-democrats’ voting strategy could have backfired when it came to candidates like Nick Chan.

Pan-democrat lawmaker Ip Kin-yuen admitted that members of the camp had voted for some “acceptable candidates”, including Nick Chan, while excluding some “hawkish” hopefuls like Maggie Chan.

Sources in the pro-Beijing camp said they were informed about the pan-democrats’ strategy shortly before the election and were advised to concentrate on voting for candidates from the latter group, rather than the former.

Pro-democracy figures Roger Wong Hoi-fung and Henry Lam were also not elected, having received 155 and 256 ballots, respectively.

The election, held at the Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre in Wan Chai, came a week after nine Hong Kong democracy activists were banned from the race, including Civic Party lawmaker Kwok Ka-ki, pro-independence activist Yeung Ke-cheong and seven supporters of the 2014 Occupy protests that paralysed parts of Hong Kong for 79 days.

A 10th candidate was disqualified because he did not submit any nomination forms.

The move is in line with a new rule that says candidates aspiring to represent the city in the NPC must swear to uphold the Chinese constitution as well as the “one country, two systems” principle under which Hong Kong is governed.

Hong Kong pan-dems to snub election run for deputies to China’s NPC after change in rules

In March, the national legislature endorsed new rules for the election of Hong Kong and Macau deputies, making it mandatory for candidates to sign a declaration that they would uphold the national constitution and Hong Kong’s mini-constitution, the Basic Law.

Among the nine activists who had their candidacies invalidated, Kwok was the only one who refused to sign the declaration. Asked why Yeung and the seven Occupy supporters were not allowed to run, presidium spokesman Ambrose Lau Hon-chuen said the ruling was made according to recommendations by the NPC Standing Committee.

“In accordance with the regulations, authorities related to the Standing Committee collected material on some aspirants’ public remarks and acts,” Lau said. “They were widely reported by the media and contravened the content of the declaration.”

Lau declined to disclose any details.

Kwok said the disqualifications showed the “ridiculousness and falseness” of the election, which he labelled as “just a show”.

“Why do they have to set so many bars to screen candidates? It doesn’t help the integration between the mainland and Hong Kong,” he said.

A panel of 1,989 Hong Kong voters, including about 300 pan-democrats, were eligible to elect the 36 delegates in total by block vote. The other voters hail from a range of sectors and are all seen as pro-Beijing. Nearly 1,800 of the electors attended a meeting on Tuesday to cast their ballot.