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LCQ6: Legislative Council by-elections (with Annexes)

     Following is a question by Dr Hon Lam Tai-fai and a reply by the Secretary for Constitutional and Mainland Affairs, Mr Stephen Lam, in the Legislative Council today (June 2):

Question :

     The 2010 Legislative Council (LegCo) by-election for the five geographical constituencies was completed on May 16, and the voter turnout rate was 17.1 per cent, which is a record low in LegCo general elections and by-elections since the establishment of the SAR Government. It has been reported that the outcome of a relevant opinion poll published by the Hong Kong Youth Association before the election indicated that 65 per cent of the respondents were against the by-election under the slogan of "five geographical constituencies referendum". The Chief Executive issued a statement in the evening of May 14, stating that the mainstream community view was that this by-election could have been avoided, was an abuse of system and was even a waste of taxpayers' money. He decided not to vote in the by-election and also indicated that he would consider amending the legislation to prevent Members from resigning and then standing for the by-elections again during the session. In this connection, will the Government inform this Council:

(a) of the actual expenses and the manpower resources, including police manpower and other supporting staff concerned, deployed by the Government for this by-election, together with a breakdown in table form detailing various types of expenses and manpower resources;

(b) whether it has commenced the law drafting procedure to amend the relevant legislation, so as to eliminate the recurrence of some Members resigning and then standing for the by-elections again during the session; if it has, when it will submit the bill to this Council for scrutiny; if not, the reasons for that; and

(c) whether it has, before the relevant legislation is amended, formulated any contingency mechanism to handle cases of some Members resigning and then standing for the by-elections again during the session; if it has, of the details; if not, the reasons for that?


Mr President,

(a) The 2010 Legislative Council (LegCo) By-election was held on May 16, 2010. The scale of the By-election, which covered five geographical constituencies across the territory, is comparable to that of a general election. The estimated expenditure for the 2010 LegCo By-election amounts to about HK$159 million with the relevant breakdown set out at Annex I. The departments and suppliers which provided support to the By-election are still calculating the actual expenses involved. Moreover, as the candidates and their agents in the By-election may, according to the law, apply for financial assistance within 60 days after the gazettal of the result of the election, the Registration and Electoral Office (REO) is not able to compute the relevant expenses for the time being. Due to the above reasons, the REO currently does not have the figure on the actual expenses of the By-election.

     The manpower resources arrangement for the By-election is set out at Annex II.

(b) According to Section 36(1)(a) of the Legislative Council Ordinance (Cap. 542), the Electoral Affairs Commission (EAC) must arrange for a by-election to be held when the Clerk to the LegCo makes a declaration as to the existence of a vacancy in the membership of the LegCo. The EAC is obliged to discharge this statutory responsibility.

     We note that there are views in the community which consider that restrictions should be imposed on LegCo Members who resign from their office and then stand for the by-elections. We would analyse these proposals carefully when considering amendments to the relevant local legislation. The HKSAR Government considers that it is indeed necessary for us to consider plugging the loophole, so that Members in office would not be able to resign at will and trigger a by-election. However, consideration would have to be given as to whether these proposals comply with the Basic Law; whether the proposed restrictions are reasonable restrictions from the legal point of view; and whether those restrictions are practicable. After we have completed the relevant research and analysis, on the basis of the conclusions drawn, we would decide how the relevant legislation could be amended.

(c) Our plan is to deal with the amendment motions to Annexes I and II to the Basic Law in relation to the methods for selecting the Chief Executive and for forming the LegCo in 2012 before the LegCo summer recess in mid-July 2010. Matters relating to the relevant local legislation can be dealt with thereafter.

Ends/Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Annex I 

Annex II