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LCQ1: Retention or otherwise of Functional Constituencies of the Legislative Council

     Following is a question by Hon Wong Sing-chi and a reply by the Secretary for Constitutional and Mainland Affairs, Mr Stephen Lam, in the Legislative Council today (December 2):


     The Consultation Document on the Methods for Selecting the Chief Executive and for Forming the Legislative Council in 2012 published by the Government on November 18 has not dealt with the issue of the retention or otherwise of the Functional Constituencies (FCs) of the Legislative Council (LegCo). On the contrary, it has proposed to increase the number of seats returned by the FCs. On a radio programme on the following day, the Chief Secretary for Administration (CS) even said that universal suffrage was not equivalent to the abolition of the FCs and it would be fair and equal as long as everyone had two votes. The CS even put a counter-question of which provision in the Basic Law required that the FCs had to be abolished to the audience. In this connection, will the Government inform this Council whether:

(a) it has assessed if the LegCo elections which are universal and equal must include the abolition of all seats returned by the FC elections;

(b) it intends to claim that the seats of the FCs with electorates expanded to cover all the voters in Hong Kong are returned by universal suffrage; and

(c) it will undertake categorically that the LegCo returned totally by universal suffrage absolutely cannot include the FC component and that the right to nominate candidates and voting right of voters are also required to conform with the universal and equal principle?



(a) The HKSAR Government published the Green Paper on Constitutional Development (the Green Paper) in July 2007 to consult the public extensively on the models, roadmap and timetable for implementing universal suffrage for the Chief Executive (CE) and the Legislative Council (LegCo). Regarding the principles which should be complied with in designing a model for implementing universal suffrage, we have set out clearly in the Green Paper the Government's position:

     (i) Having regard to the constitutional basis and principles of design of Hong Kong's political structure, as well as the concept of "universal suffrage" as generally understood internationally, the concept of universal suffrage should include the principles of "universal" and "equal" suffrage.

     (ii) As far as an individual jurisdiction is concerned, while conforming to the general international understanding of universal suffrage, it can also develop its electoral system having regard to the particular needs and aspirations of its people, the uniqueness of its socio-economic situation, and its historical realities.

(b) We have given a full account of the views received in the Report on Public Consultation on Green Paper on Constitutional Development published in December 2007, and reflected these views faithfully to the Central Authorities. Regarding implementation of universal suffrage for the LegCo, there are still diverse views within the community on the universal suffrage models and how the functional constituencies (FCs) should be dealt with:

     (i) There are views that the FC seats should be abolished in one go and replaced by district-based seats returned by universal suffrage, i.e. the "one-person-one-vote" model.

     (ii) There are also views that the FC seats should be retained, but the electoral model should be changed, for example, by allowing the FCs to nominate candidates for election by all voters of Hong Kong, i.e. the "one-person-two-votes" model whereby each voter can cast one vote in the geographical constituency (GC) election, and the other in FC election.

(c) After considering the report submitted by the CE, the Standing Committee of the National People's Congress (NPCSC) made a decision on December 29, 2007, making it clear that the CE and the LegCo may be elected by universal suffrage in 2017 and 2020.

     From now until 2020, there will be two LegCo elections to be held in 2012 and 2016. The community will have sufficient time to discuss the specific model for implementing universal suffrage for the LegCo, including how the FCs should be dealt with. We have already made it clear that when universal suffrage for the LegCo is implemented in future, the electoral model must comply with the principles of "universality" and "equality", but that there is no need to make a decision at this stage. It would be most appropriate for the CE returned by universal suffrage in 2017 to work with the LegCo formed in 2016 to deal with the issue of the FCs. This CE, returned by universal suffrage, will have broad public support to lead the Hong Kong community to resolve this controversial issue.

     The task of the current-term HKSAR Government is to deal with the methods for selecting the CE and for forming the LegCo in 2012, with a view to furthering democratisation of the electoral system, and paving the way for implementing universal suffrage. Although under the NPCSC decision, the half-and-half ratio between members returned by the FCs and members returned by the GCs through direct elections shall remain unchanged for the 2012 LegCo, we propose that consideration may be given to increasing the number of LegCo seats from 60 to 70. Aside from the five new GC seats, all five new FC seats will be allocated to elected District Council members returned through one-person-one-vote by Hong Kong people. Close to 60 per cent of the seats in the LegCo will then be returned by the GCs through direct or indirect elections. This can enhance the democratic elements of the elections substantively.

Ends/Wednesday, December 2, 2009