Outlook grim for losing councillors

Quinton Chan

ABOUT 15 municipal councillors from the Democratic Party will face employment problems after the councils are scrapped in January.

And with the closure of some of the party's district offices, several community workers may face lay-offs.

Democratic heavyweight Lee Wing-tat estimated that the party stood to lose $8 million a year in councillors' contributions.

At present 25 members from both the Provisional Urban Council and the Provisional Regional Council must contribute 15-40 per cent of their $50,000-a-month salaries to the party.

They also use part of their pay to hire assistants and set up regional offices.

Mr Lee said most of the councillors were full-time politicians. They face unemployment if they lose in the district council polls later this month, he said.

Members of the provisional district boards are paid about $20,000 a month.

The Government plans to table the Municipal Councils (Reorganisation) Bill for second and third readings in the Legislative Council on December 1. If the bill is passed, both councils will be disbanded.

The Democrats announced on Friday that they planned to sue the Government over the bill. They said they believed the proposed legislation breached the Basic Law.

'Legislators like Szeto Wah, Fred Li Wah-ming, Albert Ho Chun-yan and myself do not need to find jobs, but others will face career problems,' Mr Lee said.

Party secretary-general Dr Law Chi-kwong said several councillors could face serious financial problems as they had high mortgages.

'But we cannot offer much help as the party does not have much money itself,' he said.

Dr Law said the councillors would have difficulty finding jobs.

'Many bosses would not like to hire a former politician, especially if they are from the Democratic Party,' he said.

Dr Law said former party legislator Tik Chi-yuen spent more than six months trying to find a job after stepping down from Legco in 1995.

Urban Councillor Kam Nai-wai said: 'I know my career problems, but I do not have time to think about it. The district council election is the most important thing at the moment.' Wong Chung-ki, another Urban Councillor and Shamshuipo District Board member, said that if he won a district seat, he would continue to be a full-time politician even though his pay would be cut from $70,000 to $20,000.

But Mr Wong plans to sell his minivan. 'I can't afford it anymore. There are always some risks in this profession.'