Alex Lo

If women hold up half the sky, you wouldn't know it from the rotten-borough functional constituency lawmakers returned in Sunday's Legislative Council election. It's an all-male cast.

It's never good when a representative political body is all men. That alone should be another nail in the coffin for these trade-based seats, quite a few of which are elected by just dozens of corporate bodies. All right, Miriam Lau Kin-yee could have retained her seat for the transport industry. But she ran and lost in the direct election for Hong Kong Island. She deserves credit for taking the electoral plunge, though she might have overestimated her popularity.

By contrast, the direct geographic polls returned many more women - 11 out of 35. It's not half, but it's almost a third.

Officials refer to the so-called super seats for the district councils as functional seats; and these returned two women - Starry Lee Wai-king and Chan Yuen-han. Again, women are still in the minority, but two out of five ain't bad.

Elected by 3.2 million voters, the supers are the most direct and representative of elected seats. One reason the government likes to call them functional is surely in the hope the reflected glory of their super mandates might rub off on the other trade-based seats. Actually there is fat chance of that; rather they just make them look more rotten.


Everyone knows the functional seats are goners, but no one yet has the answer as to when and how to get rid of them. Perhaps we will have to wait until our first directly elected chief executive arrives - with luck in 2017. He will then have the authority and legitimacy to push through a workable solution.

Interestingly, when it comes to equal pay for equal work, our civil service may be miles ahead of the private sector. But in terms of the actual number of women in the top bureau posts, Leung Chun-ying has done worse than his two predecessors. There is only one woman - Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor - in his top team, through it surely matters that she is the most senior among them and is No2 in the government.

As Hong Kong moves towards full democracy, we need to have more women in the legislature. Using Taiwan and South Korea as a guide, if nothing else, there will be far fewer fist fights.

This article appeared in the South China Morning Post print edition as: HK politics risks being a men-only club