Councils 'will not be rubber stamps'

PUBLISHED : Monday, 28 November, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 28 November, 2011, 12:00am


Unpopular government policies are unlikely to win support from district councils any more easily in the coming four years, despite the pro-government camp's landslide victory in the elections this month.

Government allies said their majority in the councils might speed up decision-making, but they vowed to be loyal to voters in opposing unpopular policies.

Of the 412 elected seats up for grabs on November 6, the pro-government camp Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong (DAB) and Federation of Trade Unions (FTU) won 147 seats while pan-democrats won 83.

Excluding those claiming to be independent or non-affiliated, the seats won by the pro-establishment camp outnumber pan-democrats in 15 district councils out of 18 - with the exceptions being Kwai Tsing, Sham Shui Po and Southern districts.

Of the 17 seats on North District council, the government camp won 14 while the Democratic Party took only one. Of Eastern District council's 37 seats, the DAB and FTU took 17, compared with five for the Democratic and Civic parties combined.

The DAB's Eddie Ting Kong-ho, who was returned uncontested in Quarry Bay, Eastern District, said there would be more room for compromise when controversial issues came up. 'Take building a refuse collection station as an example; councillors from the same party would find it easier to come up with a solution,' Ting said.

So Sai-chi, a DAB councillor who was re-elected in Choi Yuen, North District, agreed.

But both said the administration should not expect the pro-government councillors to accept all the policies it proposed.

'Even though we have the majority in the council, it doesn't mean that we can be hegemonic,' So said.

The pro-government district councillors would still oppose the government when a policy infringed residents' interests, he said.

In July last year, Chief Executive Donald Tsang Yam-kuen, in an address to district council leaders, lambasted Hongkongers for their 'not in my backyard' mentality, saying they should be more willing to accept unpopular facilities such as columbariums and public housing estates in their neighbourhoods.

Ting said district councillors, regardless of their political backgrounds, would not act against public opinion because they had to be accountable to their voters.

Democrats cast doubts on the pledges made by their rivals.

'Pro-government councillors might be vocal in opposing the government's unpopular polices,' said Legislative Council lawmaker Wong Sing-chi, who lost on the Democratic Party ticket in North District. 'However, when it comes to voting, they would side with the government.'

Wong said he would set up a 'shadow council' in North District to monitor councillors' performance.

Chinese University political scientist Ivan Choy Chi-keung said pro-government and pan-democratic camps still had room for co-operation on community issues. But the pro-government camp might be blamed more readily for unpopular policies now they had a greater advantage in district councils, he said.