NPCSC to Revise Hong Kong Basic Law Annexes, Implementing NPC’s Electoral Overhaul Decision

Editor’s Note: The NPCSC unanimously approved revisions to Annexes I and II to the Hong Kong Basic Law on March 30. Our comprehensive explanation and analysis of Hong Kong’s new election rules is available here.

The Council of Chairpersons decided on Monday, March 22 to convene the 27th session of the 13th NPC Standing Committee (NPCSC) from March 29 to 30. The NPCSC will consider two bills to revise Annexes I and II to the Hong Kong Basic Law, which govern, respectively, the selection of Hong Kong’s Chief Executive and the formation of the city’s Legislative Council. The revisions are undertaken to implement the “basic principles” and “core elements” of the NPC’s March 11 decision to overhaul Hong Kong’s electoral system. We have explained the NPC decision’s contents and implications in this post. In short, it introduces mechanisms to ensure candidates for elected offices are “patriots” and to give the pro-establishment camp a decided edge in future elections.

The two bills are styled as “revisions” [修订], rather than “amendments” [修正案]. Under the Chinese legislature’s established practice, revisions to existing statutes will replace them in their entirety. Similarly, the pending revisions to the two Annexes, once passed, will completely rewrite the two instruments. Under article 159 of the Hong Kong Basic Law, the NPC has the sole power to amend the Law, but it has given the NPCSC a special authorization to modify the two Annexes in its March 11 decision.

The revisions to the Annexes are likely to pass by late April, if not next week. Under the legislature’s more recent practice, revisions to entire statutes always undergo at least two reviews before being approved. But it is unclear whether that would apply to revisions to part of a statute, the Basic Law’s two Annexes in this case; Chinese law authorizes partial updates to a law to undergo only a single review. In any event, the NPCSC is expected to proceed expeditiously. Tam Yiu-Chung, Hong Kong’s sole representative on the NPCSC, expected Hong Kong to amend its local legislation to conform to the revised Annexes “by the end of May,” given the tight schedule for organizing the upcoming Legislative Council, Election Committee, and Chief Executive elections. Under this timetable, the NPCSC will have approve the revisions by May, likely at or before its regular session in late April.

If the NPCSC chooses to conduct two separate reviews, it is possible—though not very likely—that it would release the draft revisions for a short period of public comments. Officials from the NPCSC and the State Council already visited Hong Kong and solicited opinions from mostly members of the pro-establishment camp on the electoral reform from March 15 to 17.

(The NPCSC may review additional bills next week, as the list of submitted bills in the readout of the Council of Chairpersons’ meeting is not exhaustive.)

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