51pc back a cut in lawmakers' passports

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 10 June, 2008, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 03 October, 2016, 5:52pm

Foreign citizenship for 12 in legislature rankles

More than half the respondents to a survey want to see the Basic Law provision allowing up to a fifth of the 60 lawmakers to hold foreign nationality tightened.

Fifty-one per cent of the 1,000 respondents to the SCMP/TNS survey agreed that the provision should be tightened, compared with 36 per cent who disagreed. Another 13 per cent did not know or had no comment.

Legislators representing the legal, accountancy, engineering, architectural, surveying and planning, real estate and construction, tourism, finance, financial services, import and export and insurance functional constituencies and those holding the commercial (first) and industrial (first) functional constituency seats are allowed to hold foreign citizenship.

Li Pang-kwong, a political analyst at Lingnan University, doubted candidates with foreign citizenship would face much political pressure from functional constituency voters.

'The public opinion reflected by the survey only represents the views of the general public, but many constituents in functional constituencies for professional and commercial sectors are foreign-passport holders,' he said.

'Foreign nationality could hardly figure large on the agenda in these functional constituencies in September.'

Ivan Choy Chi-keung, a political scientist at Chinese University, agreed that while grass-roots voters had strong feelings about candidates holding foreign citizenship, middle-class voters in functional constituencies did not see any problem with candidates holding foreign passports.

Margaret Ng Ngoi-yee, the legislator representing the legal constituency, said the Basic Law provision should not be changed lightly.

'It protects the voting rights of those with foreign citizenship and their right to stand for election,' she said. 'Even those lawmakers with foreign nationality are returned by election in their functional constituencies and it's up to the voters to decide,' said Ms Ng, who has British nationality.

'The public should differentiate between those elected lawmakers and political appointees,' she added, referring to the row over newly appointed undersecretaries holding foreign passports or right of abode.

Executive councillor Anthony Cheung Bing-leung said there was no need to amend the Basic Law to tighten the nationality requirement for legislators even though the public's expectations about lawmakers' nationality had changed.