Democrats propose broad eligibility for new seats

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 14 July, 2010, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 14 July, 2010, 12:00am

Anyone with substantial links to district councils should be free to run for the extra five seats for the district council functional constituency, the Democratic Party has proposed.

While existing functional constituencies for doctors, lawyers and teachers are usually filled by members of the profession, the party argues that the extra seats for district councils need not be filled by councillors.

Speaking after submitting the detailed electoral proposal for 2012 to Chief Secretary Henry Tang Ying-yen, party chairman Albert Ho Chun-yan said people with 'substantial connections' to a functional constituency were eligible to stand under existing rules.

He was referring to the Legislative Council Ordinance, which says candidates shall be 'both registered and eligible to be registered as an elector for the relevant functional constituency; or satisfy the returning officer that he has a substantial connection with the constituency'.

Under the party's so-called 'one person, two votes' proposals, candidates for the extra seats will be nominated by elected district councillors and returned by 3.2 million voters who do not have a vote in the functional constituencies. But the proposals, accepted by the government and endorsed by Legco, do not make clear if only district councillors can stand.

Ho, who also met Secretary for Constitutional and Mainland Affairs Stephen Lam Sui-lung, did not define 'substantial connection', but said those who were former district councillors and had contested elections would be eligible.

'This is not something new,' Ho said. 'Existing rules already allow people with substantial connections to stand.'

Analysts say such a rule would benefit would-be candidates like former district councillors with high public recognition, who would not need to win a seat in the 2011 district council elections to stand for the five new Legco seats.

Political analyst Ma Ngok said the arrangement would not end up returning only big names without links to the councils because the nominations would still be controlled by incumbent councillors. But he urged the government to clearly define what constitutes substantial connection to avoid disputes.

Pro-establishment parties sounded reluctant to back the Democrats' proposal.

The Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong said extending the candidate pool to those linked with district councils might deviate from the definition of a functional constituency.

'That may create too broad a circle,' chairman Tam Yiu-chung said. 'Our stance is that a candidate must be an elected district councillor.'

The Liberal Party urged a clear definition from the Democrats on 'linkage'. Chairwoman Miriam Lau Kin-yee asked: 'If I am an elector of the district council, can I run for the seat?'

Key proposals

Divide the 400 new Election Committee seats in proportion to the number of electors in each sub-sector at present

Ten district councillors can nominate a candidate to stand for one of the five new seats for district council functional constituency

Whoever has 'substantial connection' with a district council can stand

One single constituency for the five new district council seats or each seat returned via one geographical constituency

The five seats should become geographical constituency seats in 2016. All Legco seats should be returned by direct election in 2020

Raise the per-vote subsidy from HK$11 to HK$20; and the subsidy cap from 50 to 70 or 80 per cent of a candidate's election expenses

Abolish all appointed and ex officio seats in 2011