More power expected at district level
The government wants to attract young and talented people to improve local administration and tap public's pulse
District councils are likely to be given stronger powers in the hope of attracting more young political talent into their ranks, government sources say.
The government is also expected to appoint all 529 councillors to the election committee that chooses the chief executive in 2007, and to allot them five more Legislative Council seats.
A seminar attended by Chief Executive Donald Tsang Yam-kuen and Chief Secretary Rafael Hui Si-yan is expected to launch an overhaul of the councils and the way the government handles district affairs. Councillors will be consulted about proposed changes.
The government is expected to look at possible changes to the 25-year-old district administration system, including choosing district officers who are better equipped to take the public's pulse than the current crop.
At present, district officers are drawn from the ranks of the administrative officer corps - the elite civil service rank; most are either fairly junior or close to retirement.
Tam Kwok-kiu, chairman of Shamshuipo District Council, said the government planned to release a document in December or January for public consultation.
The review is expected to be completed next year.
A source familiar with the reform plans was confident that by strengthening the role of district councils, young and capable people would be attracted to join them.
'I believe the government will benefit from the move because by having high-quality district councillors, local governance will certainly improve,' the source said.
Councillors and some political parties have called for an expansion of the councils' role. They have been confined to giving advice to the government on local livelihood issues.
A review of the 18 councils has been on the cards since the 2003 district council elections.
The government intends to release its reform proposals next month, probably after Mr Tsang unveils his policy address on October 12, sources close to the government said.
It is understood that the government briefed the Executive Council yesterday about its draft proposals for electoral arrangements in 2007 and 2008.
The sources said it was proposing that in 2008 another five Legislative Council seats be returned by functional constituencies and that all five be contested by district councillors, who currently return only one legislator.
One source said: 'Giving functional seats to district councillors would be in line with the principle of developing Hong Kong's political system in a 'gradual and orderly' fashion, because most district councillors are popularly elected'.'
All 529 councillors in the 18 districts, of whom 102 are appointed by the administration, would be included on the election committee to select the next chief executive, the sources said.
They described the idea as an answer to the public's call for wider participation in the electoral process.
A pro-democracy district councillor said some mainland officials had asked him recently for his views on the government's plan to earmark another five Legco seats for councillors.
'They were quite positive towards the proposal, adding that the only contention may focus on whether the appointed district councillors should be entitled to sit on the election committee or vote for representatives to Legco,' the democrat said.
The democratic camp believes the proposal would favour pro-government parties, while the pro-business Liberal Party considers it inconsistent with the principle of balanced participation in politics.