Appointed councillors 'less in touch'

PUBLISHED : Friday, 28 October, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 28 October, 2011, 12:00am

Government appointees attended district council meetings more frequently than their democratically elected counterparts in the early part of this year, but tended to keep their mouths shut more, a report shows.

A political scientist interpreted the relative silence of appointed members as meaning they were less in touch with their communities.

A leading lawmaker said the survey by the Community Development Initiative (CDI) might be skewed, however, because it looked at only three months of meetings.

The research found that only 47 per cent of directly elected members of 15 district councils - excluding Sha Tin, Islands and Eastern - attended all of the first three council sessions this year, compared with 63 per cent of appointed members.

But 19 per cent of the appointed councillors, 15 of them, gave no speech at all during the three sessions, compared to only 10 per cent of elected members, a total of 32. Only 7 per cent of all appointees spoke six times or more, compared to 18 per cent of the elected members.

The three councils were not included because of a lack of data.

'Most appointed members don't get in touch with voters, unlike directly elected ones, who need to spend time following up on cases [of local residents],' political scientist Ivan Choy Chi-keung of Chinese University said.

One reason, he said, might be that appointed members knew less about community issues.

'You can't tell whether their presence [at meetings] means a good attitude or mere obligation,' he said. 'If the appointed ones don't even attend the meetings, they aren't fulfilling their most basic function.'

Appointments to district council seats are based on 'personal capacity in accordance with the District Councils Ordinance', according to the Home Affairs Bureau.

The least active councillor, elected Yuen Long member Cheung Man-fai - who was arrested late last year over an election scam - attended only one of the three meetings and made no speeches. Terry Kan Wing-fai, who is a North district appointee, barrister and Liberal Party member, was next on the low-activity list, attending two meetings and speaking at neither. Kan is the son of champion horse trainer Brian Kan Ping-chee, who is on trial for election bribery.

Neither Yuen Long's Cheung nor Terry Kan is seeking re-election in next month's vote.

The research also measured different parties' performances, concluding that 'the smaller and younger parties in the pan-democratic camp are the most hard-working,' said Michael Mo Kwan-tai, senior project executive of the CDI.

As many as 67 per cent of councillors from the NeoDemocrats and 63 per cent from the Association for Democracy and People's Livelihood, both democratic allies, attended all three meetings. The Democratic Party lagged with 43 per cent, and the Civic Party scored only 29 per cent.

The best the pro-establishment camp could do was 49 per cent from the Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong. The Liberal Party achieved 44 per cent and the Federation of Trade Unions (FTU) 33 per cent. 'We're not a political party so there's no centralised management over [councillors' performance],' said Wong Kwok-kin, vice-chairman of the FTU.

Lawmaker Audrey Eu Yuet-mee, Civic Party, said it was an unfair to look at only three meetings.

The research found that the 19 district councillors who serve also in the Legislative Council did not perform better than ordinary ones on attendance and speech count.

68

Number of government-appointed district council seats, out of the existing 102, that will remain for the next four-year term

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