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Revised electoral system will benefit Hong Kong

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(Photo by Anthony WALLACE / AFP)

Sir: On Friday, March 5, 2021, nearly 3,000 of Chinese lawmakers met at the National Peoples Congress (NPC-China’s top legislature) to deliberate over a draft decision on improving the electoral system of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (HKSAR). The proposed changes include adjusting the size, composition and formation of Hong Kong’s election committee, which selects the city’s leader or chief executive, and expansion of the committee’s function to include electing a “relatively large share” of Hong Kong’s legislative body, and nominating candidates for the body.

This initiative promises a fresh and improved approach that will unleash Hong Kong democratic values, contrary to what some media and critics will make the world to believe. The proposed electoral reform will deter the meddlesomeness of the system; and also will strengthen fundamental freedoms, political pluralism and democratic principles.

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The crux of the revised electoral system is patriotism, one of the key attributes of the Chinese culture. Which country does not demand patriotism from its citizens or institutions? China demands devotion and vigorous support from its citizens. Without this, China would not have been the economic, industrial and technological powerhouse of the world. Just this 2021, it has eradicated poverty by bringing the remaining 93 million people out of poverty and coupled with its success in keeping COVID-19 under control.

Regardless of the ‘one country, two systems’ model bequeathed to it by the British, China is simply promoting civic patriotism that takes the existing imbrication of politics and cultures of both the mainland and Hong Kong seriously.

Again, once the electoral system is reformed, the divisive political issues and processes that entangled the city in recent history will be a thing of the past. Political encumbrances that could regress the economic and financial successes of the region through political shenanigans and protest will be blocked by the new system. The political process will be able to elect competent hands that serve Hong Kong’s development. Also, Hong Kong stands to gain tremendously if the electoral system is connected with governance process.

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Over the last three years or so, there have been some misunderstandings and deep-seated problems about elections and democracy in Hong Kong. With the coming electoral regime, these misinterpretations or confusions will be explained and straightened-out.

To this end, China’s central government and other stakeholders particularly the people of the city must ensure to further develop Hong Kong as an international and technology hub as well as support its development as a China-foreign cultural and artistic exchange centre. Hong Kong must be better than when it was returned by the British.

Carrie Lam, the Hong Kong’s chief executive, instils confidence that the revised electoral system is ‘timely, necessary, lawful and constitutional’. It is time for Hong Kong to wake up and put the interest of the region on the up and up.

Olalekan A. Babatunde, PhD, is a fellow, Peacebuilding and evidence practitioner at the Nigeria’s Institute for Peace and Conflict Resolution (Ministry of Foreign Affairs), Abuja. austinebabatunde@yahoo.com.

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