Voters annoyed at representatives not voting in TV licence issue

Lawmakers in functional constituencies come under fire from industry members for abstaining in recent free-to-air TV debate

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 16 November, 2013, 4:39am
UPDATED : Saturday, 16 November, 2013, 6:25am

The performance of lawmakers during last week's vote on the television licence row has raised questions about how well functional constituency legislators represent their electors.

Calls are also growing for reform of the constituencies to make them more representative in preparation for universal suffrage in 2020.

At least two of the indirectly elected lawmakers are under fire from voters for abstaining from the vote on the failed motion to invoke the Legislative Council's powers to investigate the government's decision to grant new free-to-air licences to only two of the three applicants.

On Monday, 11 Hong Kong film industry associations jointly demanded that Ma Fung-kwok - of the sports, performing arts, culture and publication sector - quit because of his abstention.

Ma responded that he supported the demand for the government to explain the licence decision, but believed a Legco inquiry could undermine the decision-making mechanism.

Meanwhile, democrat Stanley Ng Wing-fai - defeated candidate in the architectural, surveying and planning sector - released what he said was an open letter from a group of voters "regretting" the abstention of their representative, Tony Tse Wai-chuen. The letter also criticised Tse for failing to monitor the government on the issue.

Ma and Tse were among 30 trade-based legislators returned by about 240,000 voters last year, while the remaining 40 lawmakers were elected by 3.5 million voters - including the five district council constituency "super seats".

Liberal Party lawmaker Felix Chung Kwok-pan said it was time for his trade-based colleagues to "face the reality", especially those with constituencies mainly made up of companies or interest groups, such as his own textiles and garment sector.

"[The public expects] the Legislative Council to be returned by universal suffrage in 2020, so even if functional constituencies stay by then … it cannot stay like this," Chung said. He suggested expanding the functional constituencies' electorate by allowing more individuals to vote.

Ma's constituency, which he won with an overwhelming 1,106 of the 2,600 registered voters, includes six Broadway Cinemas and five BMA Investment Group firms, including BMA Records and BMA Entertainment.

Such corporate voting raises worries over manipulation of grey areas in the law - which forbid individual voters from giving addresses where they do not reside, but allow companies to vote for functional seats.

A surveyor who voted for Ng last year in a close, three-horse race narrowly won by Tse said a bigger mandate would mean little if a trade-based lawmaker "did not communicate well" with his constituents.

"We sent e-mails to Tse asking him to support [the inquiry motion]," said the surveyor, who did not want her name published.

"Most people in the sector I know believed that Tse should support [the motion]. I don't know how many voters told him [otherwise]," she said.

"I felt that he was [protecting] the government because he's a friend of Leung Chun-ying."

Tse, who represents about 6,800 architects, surveyors and planners, nominated Leung in last year's poll for the top job.

The largest of the functional constituencies is education, representing some 90,000 educators.

The smallest is the financial sector, where just 125 electors from banks and deposit-taking companies in the city are eligible to vote.