District councillors challenged over constituency offices

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 16 December, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 16 December, 2012, 4:40am

The democratic credentials of Hong Kong's district councils have come under renewed scrutiny after it emerged that seven out of 68 appointed councillors have their offices outside the area they represent, making it more difficult for their constituents to access them.

They include Eastern district council's Michael Li Hon-shing and Baldwin Cheng Shing-fung, who rent offices in Tsim Sha Tsui and Happy Valley respectively.

Kwai Tsing district council chairman Fong Ping's office is in Hung Hom.

Political scientist Dixon Sing Ming, from the University of Science and Technology, said that if a councillor's office is not in his district "there is a greater chance that he won't be able to reflect the views of local residents".

The scrutiny of the appointed councillors' office arrangements comes after the Sunday Morning Post reported last week that some elected district councillors could not afford to keep an office in their constituency, leaving voters having to travel far to see them.

In defence of his decision to rent an office in Tsim Sha Tsui, Li said an appointee's performance must not be judged solely by where his or her offices were.

"Our job as appointees is to work on the macro affairs of the district, and to work with our directly elected colleagues," he said.

Li said he did not neglect his district, having recently organised its first food carnival to boost its economy and tourism. "I know there are appointees who don't care about delivering performance, but not everyone is like that."

Fong, who has been an appointee since 2007, admitted that his Hung Hom office could be inconvenient for local residents, and said he plans to rent an office in Kwai Tsing.

"When some residents called me for help applying for public housing, they asked: 'Where is your district office?'" Fong recalled. "Frankly, it is quite troublesome to be without an office in Kwai Tsing."

Some district councillors do not even have a district office. For example, Sha Tin district councillor Wong Kit-lin, principal of Baptist Lui Ming Choi Primary School, listed her school as her office address.

Cheng could not be reached for comment.