Why pro-Beijing lawmakers now welcome the by-elections date

by Yu Kam-yin / Today, 10:41

One might still remember that after the Electoral Affairs Commission announced its decision late last year to fix the date for the Legislative Council by-elections on March 11, the pro-establishment camp raised a howl over the arrangement.

They said the chosen date would fall within the annual sessions of the National People’s Congress (NPC) and the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC) in Beijing.

That means pro-establishment figures who are also Hong Kong deputies to the NPC or members of the CPPCC national committee will either miss the elections or have to fly back hastily to Hong Kong in the middle of the meetings in order to cast their votes.

But the “awkward” date for the Legco by-elections has proved to be a blessing in disguise for the pro-establishment camp since the CPPCC national committee also chose March 11 to be a rest day.

This can provide them with a perfectly legitimate and justifiable reason to take a leave from the tightly scheduled two sessions’ plenary meetings and come home for a short break.

So rather than feeling dismayed at the date of the Legco by-elections as they used to be, members of the pro-establishment camp are now actually looking forward to it.

But, as both the NPC and CPPCC are going to start a new five-year term, the periods for the two sessions’ plenary meetings are longer.

Beijing has also kept a tighter arrangement for leave taking during the two sessions’ plenary meetings. Delegates also face restrictions when taking part in socials and similar activities during the meetings.

Earlier on, Director Wang Zhimin of Beijing’s Liaison Office reminded the Hong Kong deputies to the NPC and CPPCC to join the meetings in March actively, not to take leave casually, and to avoid attending unnecessary socializing events or activities during the meetings.

This indicated that Beijing’s requirements not only apply to mainland delegates but to Hong Kong deputies as well.

Nevertheless, the May 11 date for the Legco by-elections has offered Hong Kong delegates a perfect excuse to take a leave of absence during the meetings and come home to vote and assist in canvassing the ballots while seizing the opportunity to take a three-days-two-nights break.

As some of them have said, it is the civic duty of all Hong Kong citizens to cast their votes in the city’s elections.

However, in order to avoid creating negative public impression, some Hong Kong members of the CPPCC national committee who have political affiliations said they would coordinate among themselves beforehand so that some of them would be coming back to Hong Kong and some could continue staying in Beijing for the meetings, so as to strive for “division of work as well as working together”.

This article appeared in the Hong Kong Economic Journal on Feb 10

Translation by Alan Lee

[Chinese version 中文版]

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