March 30, 2021 | Issue 2021-19
China, WHO joint research to boost global cooperation in COVID-19 origin tracing: Chinese MFA
China believes that the joint research carried out by the World Health Organization (WHO) and China will play a positive role in promoting global cooperation in COVID-19 origin tracing, a Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson said on March 30.

The spokesperson made the remarks after WHO released a report earlier on March 30 on the joint research with China on the global tracing of COVID-19 origins.

China commends the Chinese and international experts who have taken part in this joint study for their commitment to science, tireless industry and professionalism, said the spokesperson.

He said that China has always been a supporter of global scientific research on the source of the virus and its transmission routes. China co-sponsored the 73rd World Health Assembly (WHA) resolution on COVID-19 and supports WHO-led cooperation on zoonotic source research among member states.

Despite the daunting task of domestic prevention and control, China twice invited WHO experts in for origin-tracing, said the spokesperson, adding that Chinese experts and international experts from the WHO and ten countries formed a joint team and conducted joint research for 28 days in Wuhan from January 14 to February 10 this year.

The Chinese side offered necessary facilitation for the team's work, fully demonstrating its openness, transparency and responsible attitude.

The spokesperson said that the study of origins is a matter of science, which should be jointly conducted by scientists all over the world, and to politicize this issue will only severely hinder global cooperation in the study of origins, jeopardize anti-pandemic cooperation, and cost more lives, which runs counter to the international community's aspiration.

The study of origins is also a global mission that should be conducted in multiple countries and localities, and China believes the joint WHO-China study will effectively stimulate global cooperation in origin-tracing, he added.
China amends Basic Law annexes to improve Hong Kong's electoral system
China's top legislature adopted a package of legislative changes to improve Hong Kong's electoral system on March 30.

The amended Annex I and Annex II to the Basic Law of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (HKSAR) were passed at a session of the National People's Congress (NPC) Standing Committee with a unanimous vote from all 167 committee members in attendance.

The two annexes respectively concern the method for the selection of the HKSAR chief executive and the method for the formation of the HKSAR Legislative Council (LegCo) and its voting procedures.

President Xi Jinping has signed presidential orders to promulgate the amended annexes, which will go into effect on March 31.
Empowering the Election Committee

The overall design of the system was centered around the reformation and greater empowerment of the Election Committee of the HKSAR.

Committee membership has been expanded from 1,200 to 1,500. The number of sectors has been increased from four to five. The number of subsectors has also been increased from 38 to 40, and some subsectors have been adjusted and improved based on the actual situation.

Apart from its original function of nominating and electing the chief executive, the committee will have two more key functions: electing a relatively large proportion of LegCo members and participating in the nominations of all LegCo candidates.

"With the enlargement, increased number of sectors, adjusted subsectors and renewed functions, the Election Committee will have a broader base and be more representative of society, leading to more balanced participation from people from all walks of life," said Zhang Yong, deputy head of the Legislative Affairs Commission of the NPC Standing Committee.

Broader representation

The amendments also expand LegCo membership from 70 to 90. Among the members, 40 shall be returned by the Election Committee, 30 by functional constituencies and 20 by geographical constituencies through direct elections.

"The consideration behind this institutional design is that LegCo members returned by the Election Committee would represent the overall interests of Hong Kong society, those returned by functional constituencies would represent the interests of various sectors, and those returned by geographical constituencies through direct elections would represent the interests of their constituencies," said Deng Zhonghua, deputy director of the Hong Kong and Macao Affairs Office of the State Council.

According to the amendments, the seats of District Council members are canceled in both the Election Committee and the LegCo.

In recent years, District Councils have seriously deviated from their functions and nature prescribed by the Basic Law, which stipulates that District Councils are "district organizations which are not organs of political power" and may "be consulted by the government of the Region on district administration and other affairs," explained Deng.

Funded by the government, District Councils should concentrate on promoting the well-being of grassroots communities, provide valuable and constructive suggestions to the HKSAR government, and work as a bridge connecting the government with ordinary people, Deng added.

Vetting Committee

According to the new annexes, a candidate eligibility review mechanism shall be established to review and confirm the eligibility of candidates for the Election Committee, the office of chief executive, and the LegCo.

This is to ensure candidates meet not only the general eligibility requirements but also the legal requirements and conditions of upholding the Basic Law and swearing allegiance to the HKSAR, so as to fully implement the principle of "patriots administering Hong Kong," said Deng.

Staunch Support

Plugging loopholes and defects in the HKSAR's current electoral system and improving methods for the selection of the HKSAR chief executive and the formation of the LegCo in a systematic manner are the common aspirations of the Chinese people, including Hong Kong compatriots, said the Hong Kong and Macao Affairs Office of the State Council in a statement.

The office called on all sectors of Hong Kong to support the work of the HKSAR government and LegCo, so as to create an optimal environment for various elections to be held on schedule.

Consul General Zhang Ping on Twitter
"I join the Chinese community and those who uphold social justice in denouncing the hate crime, all forms of xenophobia and racism against #AAPI. It’s disturbing to see the rising incidents of this nature which in many cases Chinese Americans were targeted. These violent acts should never be tolerated nor should disinformation and stigmatization be indulged. #StopAAPIHate"
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