Appointed councillors say they're ready to face voters

At least 10 are contemplating vying for their seats in three years when appointee system goes

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 22 January, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 22 January, 2013, 4:09am

It's nearly three years before the next election and already at least 10 district council appointees are thinking of running - after the chief executive said government-appointed council seats would be scrapped in 2016.

But some pan-democrats - who may be challenged by the former appointees - say they should have faced electors earlier, and that the appointee system has helped challengers to defeat pro-democracy councillors.

Those considering running include Nancy Lam Chui-ling (Kwai Tsing), Leung Chi-kong (Eastern), Holden Chow Ho-ding (Islands), Jeffrey Pong Chiu-fai (Wan Chai), Sherman Chong Yiu-kan (Sha Tin), Wilson Wong Wai-shun (Yuen Long), Alex Hau Wing-cheong (Yau Tsim Mong), Chong Kin-shing (Yuen Long), Chan Yung (North) and Yang Mo (Southern).

Lam, a kindergarten principal, said she planned to stand for the Kwai Tsing seat because she enjoyed working in the community. "I have been serving the district for about 20 years, and have been an [appointed] councillor since 2008," Lam said. "It is a meaningful and happy job, so I hope to continue my work."

She said she did not run in the 2011 election because she was not experienced enough.

Federation of Trade Unions councillor Leung Chi-kong was also appointed five years ago.

He said he was retiring from his full-time job as an FTU officer and had recently set up an office in Hing Wah Estate, Chai Wan - part of the Fei Tsui constituency now served by Civic Party veteran Lai Chi-keong.

"Residents have told me that they hope there won't be only one person serving there," Leung said, adding that he had not decided whether to challenge anyone in the next election and would make a decision depending on how his work developed.

Lai, a directly elected councillor for more than two decades, questioned Leung's motives in setting up the office in his neighbourhood. "If he has a heart for [Chai Wan residents], he should have joined the direct election in 2011. There's no reason to wait until the seats are gone," Lai said.

"It shows the government is using those seats … so that people can have a title, operate in the district, and challenge our directly elected allies."

Directly elected Democratic Party councillor for Kwai Tsing district, Eric Lam Lap-chi, agreed.

In 2011, only five of the 102 appointees opted to face the electorate. Four won another term.

A month later, in response to critics who denounced appointed seats as "undemocratic", the government scrapped a third of the unelected seats and appointed just 68 instead of 102 district councillors - as opposed to 412 elected councillors.

But it still renewed debate over democratisation because almost all were from the Beijing-friendly camp, and at least three had been rejected by voters beforehand.

In last week's policy address, the chief executive promised to amend the legislation as soon as possible to abolish all appointed seats.

The amended bill will be submitted to the Legislative Council in the next two months.