Directly Elected Seats for Hong Kong District Councils Reduced to 20%, Ensuring Dominance Returns to the Pro-Beijing Camp

The Hong Kong Legislative Council (LegCo) passed the third reading on the revision plan of the district councils on July 6, rewriting the composition of the district councils and reducing the directly elected (popular vote) seats to 88, less than 20 percent of the total. The revised composition of the district councils will almost certainly return the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) controlled factions back into the driving seat of the councils again. The number of directly elected (by popular vote) seats has been dramatically reduced from the current 452 seats to 88, and the proportion will drop from about 94 percent to about 20 percent. The remainder of the 470 total seats will be appointed by the Chief Executive, rural committee chairpersons, and other local committees. All candidates vying for district councilor positions will be subject to vetting to ensure patriots are administering Hong Kong. Performance guidelines will be implemented to monitor councilors during their tenure and allow action to be taken if councilors move outside the prescribed procedures. The revised arrangements will ensure that the Hong Kong government has complete control of the workings of district councils. The last district council election in 2019 coincided with the anti-extradition movement in Hong Kong, from which the Democratic camp won 86 percent of the seats on offer, resulting in the pro-communist establishment losing its dominance. Some scholars commented on the amendment as violating the Basic Law, saying that it is a “regression back to even worse than the colonial era.” Former district councilors believe that the new district council process is just a rubber stamp mechanism, an attempt to create the illusion of “democracy” to foreign countries. The chairman of the Democratic Party, Lo Kin-hei, said that his party has not yet decided whether to put candidates to run for the election, emphasizing that he will never accept humiliation in exchange for election eligibility. LegCo 3rd Reading Passed the District Council Amendment Plan. The District Councils (Amendment) Bill 2023 rewrites the composition of the District Councils, including greatly reducing the number of directly elected seats to only 88. Of the 89 LegCo members in attendance for the vote,  88 voted in favor of the bill, and the 89th, the chairman, abstained. According to the reframed composition of the district councils, there will be 470 district councilors. The appointment system will decide most members of the next district councils, and the ratio of appointed, district committee elected, and direct election is about 4:4:2. Under the new arrangement, the proportion of directly elected seats is lower than when the first district council was established in 1982, while the proportion of appointed seats will be at a new high since that inaugural year. In addition, under the new system, the chairpersons of the 18 district councils will be held by the appointed District Officers of the corresponding districts, A performance monitoring system will be introduced, empowering the Secretary for Home and Youth Affairs to issue guidelines, specifying standards for the performance of district councilors, and listing what sanctions can be imposed on district councilors for their misconduct. A new mechanism for investigating misconduct by district councils has also been added, by which the Secretary for Home and Youth Affairs can consider whether to impose sanctions based on the findings and recommendations of the investigation. The new system also establishes a “District Council Eligibility Review Committee” to probe in detail each candidate’s eligibility to stand for district council elections. The committee should also seek the opinion of the Committee for Safeguarding National Security of Hong Kong on whether a person is judged to be supporting the Basic Law and be loyal to Hong Kong. Chief Executive John Lee Ka-chiu said that LegCo’s unanimous passing of the bill puts the district councils firmly in the hands of “patriots.” EU: Further Weakening the One Country, Two Systems Principle The European Union issued a statement on July 6h, saying that the “District Councils (Amendment) Bill 2023” passed by the Hong Kong Legislative Council violated the principle of democratic representation enshrined in the Basic Law. Following the introduction of the National Security Law in 2020, and rules for the election of both the Chief Executive and of the Legislative Council in 2021, it is another serious act undermining the power of Hong Kong people to choose representatives on community affairs. Democratic Party Emphasizes Not Accepting Humiliation for Candidacy Mr. Lo Kin-hei, the chairperson of the Democratic Party, said in an online program on the same day that his party has not yet decided whether to put candidates forward to run for election and emphasized that he will not accept humiliation in exchange for candidate eligibility. Mr. Lo said that there are st

Directly Elected Seats for Hong Kong District Councils Reduced to 20%, Ensuring Dominance Returns to the Pro-Beijing Camp

The Hong Kong Legislative Council (LegCo) passed the third reading on the revision plan of the district councils on July 6, rewriting the composition of the district councils and reducing the directly elected (popular vote) seats to 88, less than 20 percent of the total. The revised composition of the district councils will almost certainly return the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) controlled factions back into the driving seat of the councils again.

The number of directly elected (by popular vote) seats has been dramatically reduced from the current 452 seats to 88, and the proportion will drop from about 94 percent to about 20 percent. The remainder of the 470 total seats will be appointed by the Chief Executive, rural committee chairpersons, and other local committees. All candidates vying for district councilor positions will be subject to vetting to ensure patriots are administering Hong Kong. Performance guidelines will be implemented to monitor councilors during their tenure and allow action to be taken if councilors move outside the prescribed procedures. The revised arrangements will ensure that the Hong Kong government has complete control of the workings of district councils.

The last district council election in 2019 coincided with the anti-extradition movement in Hong Kong, from which the Democratic camp won 86 percent of the seats on offer, resulting in the pro-communist establishment losing its dominance.

Some scholars commented on the amendment as violating the Basic Law, saying that it is a “regression back to even worse than the colonial era.” Former district councilors believe that the new district council process is just a rubber stamp mechanism, an attempt to create the illusion of “democracy” to foreign countries. The chairman of the Democratic Party, Lo Kin-hei, said that his party has not yet decided whether to put candidates to run for the election, emphasizing that he will never accept humiliation in exchange for election eligibility.

LegCo 3rd Reading Passed the District Council Amendment Plan.

The District Councils (Amendment) Bill 2023 rewrites the composition of the District Councils, including greatly reducing the number of directly elected seats to only 88. Of the 89 LegCo members in attendance for the vote,  88 voted in favor of the bill, and the 89th, the chairman, abstained.

According to the reframed composition of the district councils, there will be 470 district councilors. The appointment system will decide most members of the next district councils, and the ratio of appointed, district committee elected, and direct election is about 4:4:2.

Under the new arrangement, the proportion of directly elected seats is lower than when the first district council was established in 1982, while the proportion of appointed seats will be at a new high since that inaugural year.

In addition, under the new system, the chairpersons of the 18 district councils will be held by the appointed District Officers of the corresponding districts, A performance monitoring system will be introduced, empowering the Secretary for Home and Youth Affairs to issue guidelines, specifying standards for the performance of district councilors, and listing what sanctions can be imposed on district councilors for their misconduct. A new mechanism for investigating misconduct by district councils has also been added, by which the Secretary for Home and Youth Affairs can consider whether to impose sanctions based on the findings and recommendations of the investigation.

The new system also establishes a “District Council Eligibility Review Committee” to probe in detail each candidate’s eligibility to stand for district council elections. The committee should also seek the opinion of the Committee for Safeguarding National Security of Hong Kong on whether a person is judged to be supporting the Basic Law and be loyal to Hong Kong.

Chief Executive John Lee Ka-chiu said that LegCo’s unanimous passing of the bill puts the district councils firmly in the hands of “patriots.”

EU: Further Weakening the One Country, Two Systems Principle

The European Union issued a statement on July 6h, saying that the “District Councils (Amendment) Bill 2023” passed by the Hong Kong Legislative Council violated the principle of democratic representation enshrined in the Basic Law. Following the introduction of the National Security Law in 2020, and rules for the election of both the Chief Executive and of the Legislative Council in 2021, it is another serious act undermining the power of Hong Kong people to choose representatives on community affairs.

Democratic Party Emphasizes Not Accepting Humiliation for Candidacy

Mr. Lo Kin-hei, the chairperson of the Democratic Party, said in an online program on the same day that his party has not yet decided whether to put candidates forward to run for election and emphasized that he will not accept humiliation in exchange for candidate eligibility.

Mr. Lo said that there are still some regional supporters who hope the Democratic Party can have some elected councilors so that they can, if needed, find someone who can help. The Democratic Party is in the process of enquiring about the intentions of their party members to run for the election and revealed that there were some current and former district councilors, as well as some new members, who intend to run for the election. However, after the government announced the district council restructuring plan earlier, the number of such party members who intend to run for the election has dropped significantly.

Mr. Lo pointed out that no matter whether he is chair of the Democratic Party or not, he believes that it will not change its stance drastically in order to fit the government’s requirements. He will discuss with party members who intend to stand for the election and will also assess whether the candidates can adhere to the Democratic Party’s ideals before deciding whether to support the election. He stressed that humiliation, terms, and conditions for nomination or exchange for other benefits are simply not acceptable.

Scholar: Back to Even Worse Than the Colonial Era

In an interview with the Epoch Times, scholar Mr. Chung Kim-wah described the present case as a major retrogression of democracy, “a regression to the point that is even worse than the colonial era,” and called it a “deceitful election” in the making. He said the government violated the Basic Law because the Basic Law stipulates that Hong Kong’s political system should gradually move towards universal suffrage. The CCP further deprives Hong Kong people of their basic civil rights and stifles their democratic aspirations.

He lamented that the LegCo is fundamentally a “One voice chamber,” all controlled by Beijing. “It is now the case when 88 of the 89 members of LegCo voted unanimously to pass the bill, no doubt it will be even more so in the district councils in the future,” he said.

Former District Councilor: Directly Elected Seats an Illusion of ‘Democracy’

Former Yau Tsim Mong district councilor Mr. Ben Lam Siu-pan, said in an interview with the Epoch Times that the new district council is not a “council” at all, but another “rubber stamp” [assembly]. In the future, only pro-communist candidates will be able to stand for election, and the political rights of voters will be undermined. The new district councils will be more one-sided, and pro-communist district councilors will only support the government. “Democrats can no longer enter the institutional and parliamentary system and can only become fringe political think tanks to comment on current affairs,” he said.

He stated that the remaining 88 directly elected seats serve no more than just to create the illusion of “democracy” to foreign countries and, at the same time, allow the pro-establishment camp to obtain stability maintenance funds granted by the CCP, to help cover election costs. In the future, when the District Officers preside on the district councils, they will add lots of district councilor codes of practice, rendering the councilors mere subordinates to the District Officers, said Mr. Lam

47 People Charged with Subversion in Primary Election Case

In the 2019 anti-extradition movement, the democrats won a landslide victory during the district council elections, taking the chairs in 17 district councils and a total of 388 seats.

Pro-democracy supporters hope that the democrats could take advantage of the momentum and win more than half of the seats in the Legislative Council elections originally scheduled in 2020, so as to exert more pressure on the government and get rid of the situation where pro-communist factions control the council.

Therefore, the democrats held their own primary elections on July 11-12, 2020, hoping by letting the people vote through this program, they could decide who would stand in the then-upcoming Legislative Council election, although it was stated the results therefrom would not be legally binding. Even though the government did not arrange the election, there were still 610,000 votes cast.

However, 47 promoters and candidates in this primary election were later charged by the government with the crime of “conspiring to subvert state power.”​