China to handpick loyalists for Hong Kong accountancy, legal and IT seats

Published (HKT): 2021.03.31 13:51

Beijing is eyeing high-level control of several subsectors on Hong Kong’s powerful Election Committee that were strongholds of the pro-democracy camp five to six years ago.

Half of the seats in the accountancy, legal and information technology subsectors will be filled by national organizations, in a move likely targeted at majority victories clinched by pro-democracy politicians in those professions during the last committee election, in 2016.

The organizations set to have representation on the Election Committee include the Chinese Academy of Sciences and Chinese Academy of Engineering, both of which are the highest state institutions in their respective fields and fall directly under the State Council, the chief administrative body led by China’s premier.

In addition, some of the state organizations do not publicize their full membership lists, Apple Daily found in an investigation.

Structural changes to the subsectors were on Tuesday approved by the national legislature as part of amendments to annexes I and II of the Basic Law, Hong Kong’s mini-constitution.

Central Chinese authorities are seeking to curtail pro-democracy influence in Hong Kong politics by revising the composition of the 1,500-member Election Committee, which will in future pick nearly half of the city’s legislature on top of its conventional role of selecting the local chief executive.

In accountancy, for instance, the subsector was swept by pro-democracy candidates in 2016 when they won 26 of the 30 seats, while the other four members publicly said that they would not support incumbent Leung Chun-ying as the next chief executive. The job eventually went to Carrie Lam in 2017.

On the new Election Committee, half of the 30 accountancy seats must go to “Hong Kong accountancy consultants” engaged by the Ministry of Finance.

According to the ministry, the consultants are responsible for “giving advice on the reform and development of the mainland’s accounting policies in order to accelerate the development of the accounting profession in the mainland and Hong Kong.”

The ministry generally appoints consultants every two years. The last term of appointment ended at the end of 2020, and no new list has yet been released. The previous appointees included Ocean Park chief executive Matthias Li; Bernard Wu, deputy chairperson of Poseidon Hill Capital Limited; and Jennifer Chueng, executive director of DBS Bank (Hong Kong).

In the IT subsector, half of the 30 seats will be occupied by academicians nominated by the two top academies.

These people are usually former and current vice chancellors or deputy vice chancellors of Hong Kong universities.

Nine seats on the 30-strong legal subsector will be taken up by Hong Kong members of the China Law Society.

The society is a nationwide legal organization with state links. Its current president is Wang Chen, vice chairperson of the National People’s Congress Standing Committee.

On its website, the society did not reveal any Hong Kong members serving on its 2019 committee, Apple Daily found. There were 13 Hong Kong members in 2013, including Beijing loyalists Andrew Liao, Martin Liao, legal scholar and member of the Hong Kong Basic Law Committee Albert Chen, and Secretary for Justice Teresa Cheng.

Meanwhile in the Chinese medicine subsector, half of the 30 seats will be earmarked for Hong Kong members of the World Federation of Chinese Medicine Societies.

The federation has only 15 Hong Kong members on its executive committee, according to the website of its Hong Kong branch, indicating that all of them will probably be nominated or automatically elected to the subsector on the Election Committee.

Similar arrangements are found in the sports, performing arts, culture and publication subsector.

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