Abolishing trade-based seats not the solution, says Jasper Tsang

Legco president Jasper Tsang says doing away with functional constituencies may only worsen the legislature's ties with the administration

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 16 July, 2014, 6:23pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 17 July, 2014, 4:09am

The Legislative Council's trade-based constituencies may be "unfairly elected", but abolishing them will not help mend ties with the administration in the short run, the Legco president says.

Summing up the council's work in the past session at a press conference yesterday, Jasper Tsang Yok-sing was asked to comment on the government's political reform reports, which failed to propose major changes to those Legco seats.

"We know some functional constituencies are very small," Tsang said. "We know functional constituency elections are neither fair nor universal. Ultimately they cannot be maintained upon reaching full universal suffrage ... But since they are elected according to the Basic Law, they are legitimate in this sense."

Of the city's 70 lawmakers, 35 are directly elected to represent five geographic constituencies. The other 35 are returned by functional constituencies - all but five are based on different trade and professional sectors.

Pan-democrats have long complained that the functional constituencies are unrepresentative and should be scrapped.

Beijing-friendly Tsang declined further comment on the government's reports, which were meant to summarise public views on reform collected from a five-month consultation.

The government reports concluded it was "generally agreed" that the Basic Law's appendix II, which requires the even split between functional constituency lawmakers and directly elected lawmakers, needed no change.

Asked if abolishing functional constituencies would help improve the relationship between the executive branch and the legislature, Tsang said he did not see them as a causal factor.

"Our functional constituency members tend to support the government. Cancelling the seats could make it worse," he said.

It was the government's failure to solve key social problems that provoked lawmakers to drastic action such as filibustering at Legco meetings, he added.

Chinese University political scientist Ma Ngok said Tsang's view on abolishing the functional constituencies was right only because the administration was neither democratically elected nor formed by political parties.

In its past session, Legco passed 18 government bills, nine of them without amendments. It will continue to scrutinise 19 remaining bills in its next session.

A total of 36 non-binding motions were debated by lawmakers - fewer than those in the past few sessions. Tsang attributed this to some lawmakers' filibustering on the government budget bill that they objected to.

Tsang said he could not stop lawmakers from filibustering unless they repeated their speeches or got sidetracked. "There is no such thing as a president's right to 'cut' filibusters," he said.