Judge legislators' work on wide-ranging criteria

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 20 October, 2010, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 20 October, 2010, 12:00am

Every year, a Catholic group that monitors legislators' performances delivers a report, measuring both the value and volume of members' work. It tabulates their attendance records and the total number of times they have voted, moved a motion, filed a question or made a speech in the council during the year.

From the data, the group then analyses each member's political stance. The process seems to focus on quantity, rather than quality.

However, this year's report concentrated on political principles and rated members according to how they had voted on the government-sponsored political reform package earlier this year.

The report named and shamed legislators from the Democratic Party who supported the reform package, saying they had abandoned their political principles, reneged on their campaign pledges and betrayed their constituents. It attacked them for doing under-the-table deals with Beijing that seriously damaged the city's high degree of autonomy and the fundamental principle of 'Hong Kong people ruling Hong Kong'.

It is worth noting that despite those harsh comments, many Hongkongers support the Democrats for building an open and productive dialogue with the central government and for breaking the political deadlock, which has left Hong Kong adrift without substantial electoral advancement for years.

According to the latest opinion survey by Baptist University, for example, even though most people aged below 40 were against the Democrats' political U-turn, older respondents preferred a more conciliatory approach and agreed with their action.

The Catholic group's report raises other questions. Of course, we do need independent monitoring groups to keep tabs of our lawmakers and public servants. And there is nothing wrong with them having a strong political stance.

But in compiling the report, the group seems to have failed to objectively gauge lawmakers' performance, coming up with incomplete and biased assessments.

For example, it failed to consider the fact that lawmaker Albert Chan Wai-yip was unable to participate in a motion debate on political reform because he had resigned his seat to support plans for a de facto referendum on democratisation.

As a result, the performance report mistakenly labelled him a troublemaker with few achievements.

In fact, the opposite is true. Chan had tried repeatedly without success to sponsor a motion debate on the subject.

On the other hand, Chan's fellow members from the League of Social Democrats, Wong Yuk-man and Leung Kwok-hung, were accused of lacking interest in voting at meetings and debates, which the report interpreted as a lack of interest in the council's business and a neglect of duty.

We have to understand that on many occasions the two had been expelled by the council president for protesting inside the chamber, and so were unable to vote.

Although turning up and voting in council meetings are part and parcel of being a legislator, they are not vital in determining the performance of a member.

We must go beyond superficial elements and judge members by looking at facts and not just survey figures. Those who have performed their duties diligently may not always get reported by the media.

A proper report card should be a truthful record to document the work and public services provided by legislators, inside and outside of the council, measuring both the quality and quantity of their work.

A monitoring body would have little credibility if it doesn't even understand this simple logic.

Albert Cheng King-hon is a political commentator. taipan@albertcheng.hk