23 October 2016
Beijing is said to be working behind the scenes in choosing the person who will succeed outgoing Legco president Jasper Tsang. Photo: HKEJ
Beijing is said to be working behind the scenes in choosing the person who will succeed outgoing Legco president Jasper Tsang. Photo: HKEJ

Opposition camp allowing Beijing to take control of Legco

As a special administrative region of the People’s Republic of China, Hong Kong will find it difficult to get rid of Beijing’s control.

But the city is supposed to enjoy a high degree of autonomy under the “one country, two systems” principle that Beijing has pledged to uphold.

It is something that we must treasure and protect, regardless of Beijing’s determined efforts to tighten its control over the territory.

We still have our own government, led by Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying, and we have our own legislature, the 70-member Legislative Council.

We still take care of our own social, financial and economic affairs, we have our core values that make us unique and distinguish us from other cities and regions of China.

That’s why it’s hard to understand why some of our supposed leaders choose to abandon this little degree of autonomy and freedom that we still have.

It’s amazing how some people are practically begging Beijing to interfere in our internal affairs and use our institutions to fit its policy goals.

Take the case of the choice of the next Legco president as an example.

The matter of choosing the head of the legislative body should be the sole decision of the 70 newly elected lawmakers when they convene on Oct. 12.

But as we are now witnessing, leaders of the pro-establishment camp are stumbling over each other to get Beijing’s blessing for the key post in exchange for more bargaining power in the upcoming chief executive election.

Starry Lee, chairwoman of the Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong (DAB), the city’s biggest pro-Beijing political party, has admitted that the Liaison Office has approached her party over the election of the next Legco president.

She said there have been “informal contacts” as the Liaison Office is concerned with the DAB’s views on such an important matter.

Regina Ip of the New People’s Party also admitted that the Liaison Office had discussed with her party possible candidates for Legco president.

She said it was “reasonable” for the Liaison Office to care about Legco affairs because it is among Hong Kong’s prominent bodies.

In short, our politicians from the pro-establishment camp are not only not questioning efforts by the Liaison Office to influence the outcome of the election for Legco president, they welcome Beijing’s interference.

Who will be the next Legco president is a matter that is quite important for Beijing.

The head of Legco has the power to assign priority to the many bills submitted by the executive branch and the lawmakers.

He sees to it that key government proposals are given smooth passage in Legco, and that means, among other things, ensuring that lawmakers from the opposition do the least disturbance to the body’s operations according to the wishes of the pro-establishment camp.

So the Liaison Office must work behind the scenes to make sure that the next Legco president is the best person to advance Beijing’s policies in the territory.

Regardless of its “one country, two systems” commitment, Beijing wants to transform Legco into a rubber stamp.

It wants Hong Kong to have a legislative body that is similar in function and purpose to its own National People’s Congress, which exists solely to legislate the decisions of the State Council and the Communist Party without any capability to monitor, much less check, their absolute power.

In Hong Kong, monitoring the activities of the government, and checking against abuses, is the function of the opposition.

But the opposition camp, which has won 30 seats in the incoming legislature, doesn’t seem interested in performing its role.

Their remarkable showing in the Sept. 4 election should give them the incentive to challenge the pro-establishment camp for the Legco leadership.

Of course they would lose to the administration’s candidate for Legco president, but at least they would be able to assert their independence and their role as the opposition in the legislature.

But instead, the opposition camp has acknowledged Beijing’s right to interfere in Legco’s affairs, including the selection of its head.

Even the so-called radical lawmakers have chosen to be silent on the issue.

When asked about the alleged interference from the Liaison Office in the selection of the Legco president, Secretary for Constitutional and Mainland Affairs Raymond Tam Chi-yuen said any institution in Hong Kong can reach out to various sectors in the community as long as it doesn’t breach election laws.

Great response, but how would that stand against the One Country, Two Systems principle?

The results of the recent Legco election show that Hong Kong people value the independence of the city’s institutions, including the legislature.

But the people they elected into office have chosen to accept this clear intervention into Hong Kong’s internal affairs.

Lawmakers, especially those from the opposition, should be reminded that Legco is the only institution that has the authority to monitor the activities and policies of the administration.

They play a crucial role in preventing officials from abusing their power, from using public funds to build white elephants or introducing Chinese laws into our own legal system.

The Basic Law clearly provides that no department of the central government may interfere in the affairs of the Hong Kong special administrative region, except in the matter of foreign affairs and national defense.

But it seems that opposition legislators have abandoned their duty even before they start to occupy their Legco seats.

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EJ Insight writer

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