Council reform plan under fire
Appointed seats on district councils may become a thing of the past by 2016 under a government proposal, after one-third of the 102 seats were abolished last month.
But the proposal makes no mention of scrapping the 27 ex officio seats set aside for rural committee chiefs, sparking criticism from pandemocrats.
The government was 'inclined to abolish the remaining 68 seats' in one go in the next district council election, instead of in phases by 2020, Secretary for Constitutional and Mainland Affairs Raymond Tam Chi-yuen (pictured) said at the start of a two-month public consultation on the appointment system yesterday.
Tam said it was likely Hong Kong would have universal suffrage for the election of the chief executive by 2017.
'Therefore, by 2016, if we abolish the appointment system in one go, that would be more consistent and more conducive to the development of our constitutional structure, including our democratic development,' he said.
Tam said the government held an open attitude on the issue and would faithfully reflect the public's views to the next chief executive.
At a meeting of the Legislative Council's panel on constitutional affairs, Democrat Lee Wing-tat said: 'Rural committee chairmen will still be able to be ex officio members of district councils. What is the legal basis for that?
'Shouldn't we seek the public's views on this matter?' he said. 'Shouldn't the seats for rural committee chairmen be abolished to encourage those affiliated with rural affairs bodies, just as the general public, to contest direct elections instead?'
Lee said the proposals came too late, referring to attempts to scrap all appointed district council seats since the 1990s.
Democratic Party acting chairwoman Emily Lau Wai-hing also weighed in, saying her party opposed the administration 'dragging its heels' over the abolition of appointed and ex officio seats on district councils.
She suggested the government conduct a poll on whether people supported scrapping ex officio seats.
Lawmaker Ip Kwok-him, of the Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong, said his party had long believed that appointed seats should be scrapped eventually.
Tam said that if needed, the government might conduct an opinion poll or include the findings of surveys conducted by other pollsters into the report of the consultation results.
In the paper, the government does not propose increasing the number of elected district council seats, which now stands at 412.
As it stands, each elected councillor represents an average of 17,282 residents.
Tam said a drastic rise in the number of elected seats would mean a decrease in the population-to-seat ratio, which may arouse concerns over the representativeness of the district councillors.
He said more elected seats would be added when the population grew.
The number of appointed district councillors serving in this four-year term is 68, down from 102 in the last term.
A post-handover record of this many voters cast ballots in the November district council polls
- A total of 76 seats were uncontested