1 in 4 boundaries may be redrawn for district polls

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 04 December, 2010, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 04 December, 2010, 12:00am

The boundaries of more than a quarter of constituencies may be redrawn ahead of next year's district elections, the results of which will have an unusually big impact on 2012's legislative poll.

The elections are on course to be the most hotly contested ever, since district councillors will contest an extra five seats in the Legislative Council poll.

One leading pan-democrat, citing previous boundary redraws, fears the exercise will be carried out in a way that benefits the government's political allies.

'The commission relies on advice from the district officers, who in turn consult district leaders. And who are they? Mostly government supporters and the DAB,' the Democratic Party member said.

Ip Kwok-him, of the Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong, dismissed suggestions of gerrymandering.

The Electoral Affairs Commission, which yesterday announced proposals to redraw the boundaries of 113 of 412 constituencies, denied its recommendations were the result of political pressure. The commission is an independent body but received advice from government district officers in drawing up its proposals.

Its chairman, Court of First Instance judge Barnabas Fung Wah, said the proposals were entirely according to criteria laid down by law. These include changes in a constituency's population and the special identity of a community.

'The commission will not consider any political questions,' he said.

The public has a month to comment on the plans.

A final proposal for boundary changes will be submitted to Chief Executive Donald Tsang Yam-kuen for approval in March.

Political parties have criticised government delays in amending the electoral laws for the polls, to be held in November, saying they would not have enough time to prepare.

The amendments were presented to legislators in October, six months later than usual, because officials were occupied with work on 2012 electoral reforms in the first half of the year.

Fung said the commission understood the public's concerns about the delays to the amendments and would shorten by a month the time it took to study the submissions made by the public during the consultation.

He believed there would still be enough time despite the delay.

For the 2007 elections, 142 constituencies had their boundaries redrawn.

The commission proposes redrawing boundaries in all but two of the 18 districts, with Sha Tin and Kwun Tong most heavily affected. Some hotly contested constituencies with large population increases - for example Ping Shek in Kwun Tong - will be split into two, calling into doubt whether their incumbent councillors will be able to defend their seats.

Thomas Yu Kwun-wai, of the Civic Party, who lost to Bernard Chan Pak-li of the DAB in the 2007 election, said it was too early to deduce the effects of the proposed changes.

Meanwhile, councillors' expense allowance will go up 15 per cent in January, to HK$268,572 a year. From January 2012 they will be allowed medical expenses of HK$26,970 and an end-of-term bonus of 15 per cent of their honorarium.