Work records highlight flaws in Legco system

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 29 July, 2010, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 29 July, 2010, 12:00am

For the past few years, it has seemed almost impossible to read the newspapers or watch a current affairs news programme without being reminded of the debate over constitutional reform, and whether our current system of functional constituencies in the Legislative Council complies with international standards of universal suffrage.

More recently, the merits of functional constituencies came under particular scrutiny as pan-democrats sought greater democratic reforms by highlighting the disproportionate power held by such lawmakers representing narrow sectors of the population. Often included in the material handed out to demonstrate the unfairness of the functional constituencies was the consistently poor Legco work records of the functional constituency lawmakers.

With a large question mark still hanging over the future of functional constituencies, it is therefore surprising to see that lawmakers who have consistently been highlighted as the poor performers regarding Legco attendance and work do not seem to have made any effort to improve their Legco work and justify their seats. Timothy Fok Tsun-ting, representing the sports, performing arts, culture and publications sector, has now acquired the worst attendance record for the fifth consecutive year, and the eighth time in the past 12 years.

Another telling statistic is that three of these lawmakers have yet to handle a single interview with complainants from the public since the current term began in 2008. Each week lawmakers are rostered to meet members of the public who seek assistance.

Geographical constituency lawmakers seem to have shouldered this burden most of the time, with Leung Yiu-chung, representing the New Territories West constituency, having met complainants 47 times since October 2008. But Lau Wong-fat of the Heung Yee Kuk constituency, Philip Wong Yu-hong of a commercial constituency, and David Li Kwok-po of the finance constituency, have yet to meet any complainants.

It seems that Wong and Li made themselves available during their rostered times but no one wanted to see them. If that is so, it is a reflection of the functional constituency system, which consistently returns lawmakers to Legco even though the majority of the population has no faith in them being able to assist; both men are veteran councillors and prominent public figures.

For Lau, who is also an executive councillor, it was not that nobody asked him for assistance - one person did - but more a case of him thinking this aspect of Legco work was not worth his time. Lau did not turn up to the meeting, arguing that a telephone conversation would have been more useful, but he did not engage in that conversation either. Notably, Wong, Lau, Li and Fok were among the 14 functional constituency lawmakers who were returned automatically without competition in the 2008 election, making these latest statistics an addition to the infinite list of reasons why electoral politics must be at the heart of a functioning democracy.

That these seats were not reformed in any way is a major flaw of the latest political reform package. The addition of more functional constituency seats in the chamber in 2012 may help to address the imbalance of power in Legco. But as long as the traditional functional constituency seats remain, it will be difficult to say that Legco is a fair, accountable and effective legislature.

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