Call to drop appointed seats sooner rather than later
The 68 remaining government-appointed district council seats should all be gone by the next term in 2016 instead of gradually being scrapped, the Constitutional and Mainland Affairs Bureau said yesterday.
The bureau called on the incoming administration of Leung Chun-ying, set to be sworn in on July 1, to prepare for them to be ditched sooner rather than later.
'The proposed legislative work should start at the beginning of the fourth-term [government] in order to implement the abolition [on] January 1, 2016,' the bureau advised in a report, referring to District Councils Ordinance amendments that would pave the way for scrapping the seats.
One-third of the original 102 appointed seats were axed this year. Removing the remaining seats would weaken the government's control over the community-level policymaking bodies.
The bureau's report, the result of a two-month public consultation, was published five days before the seven-year tenure of Chief Executive Donald Tsang Yam-kuen's government ends. The report cited a Chinese University public opinion poll commissioned by the bureau, which found that 71 per cent of Hongkongers supported abolishing all government-appointed seats by 2016.
Another concern left to Tsang's successor is whether the 27 ex officio members of the councils - all chairmen of rural committees under the Heung Yee Kuk, which looks after indigenous New Territories residents' interests - should be removed.
'Currently, public opinions differ on whether to retain the ex officio seats,' the report said. 'Heung Yee Kuk, individuals and organisations from the New Territories ... strongly object to the abolition. We suggest the [next government should] conduct in-depth deliberation and more extensive consultation ... before deciding on the way forward.'
Leung's election manifesto said district council powers should be enhanced, but did not mention the appointed or ex officio seats.
Democratic Party vice-chairwoman Emily Lau Wai-hing said it was 'very unacceptable' that the question of ex officio seats was left up to the next administration.
Beijing loyalist parties - whose members are favoured to fill appointed seats - are also likely to face diluted influence in the district councils, should those posts be scrapped.
Tam Yiu-chung, chairman of the Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong, had earlier urged the administration to abolish the government-appointed seats over the course of two terms.
However, lawmaker Lau Kong-wah, vice-chairman of the DAB, which has had 10 members appointed in district councils, said the bureau's proposal did not pose a threat and would simply require party members to change their political strategies.
The percentage of people, in the consultation report on the district council system, who thought all appointed seats should be retained