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Government's response to Letter to Hong Kong

     In response to media enquiries on Legislative Councillor Cyd Ho's remarks in Radio Television Hong Kong's Letter to Hong Kong broadcast earlier today (June 26), a spokesman for the Constitutional and Mainland Affairs Bureau said:

     "The Administration has made it abundantly clear on many occasions that under the Basic Law, there is no system of referendum in the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region. In January last year, five Legislative Council (LegCo) Members resigned with the aim to force by-elections in all of the five geographical constituencies (GCs) of the territory, so as to instigate a so-called 'referendum'. In accordance with the electoral legislation, a by-election was subsequently held on May 16, 2010 to fill the vacancies. All the five resigned Members were re-elected, but the by-election had a record low voter turnout rate of only 17%.

     "The record low voter turnout indicated that most Hong Kong people did not accept that legislators could resign at will to instigate the so-called 'referendum'. The 2010 LegCo by-election, which cost around $126 million, was considered by members of the public and some political parties as an unnecessary and significant drain on public resources, which could have been deployed for other more productive purposes. There are calls for review on the current arrangement under which a vacant seat is filled by a by-election. There are also views that there should be a mechanism to facilitate the speedy replacement of any vacant LegCo seat in order to maintain the integrity and operation of the LegCo.

     "Against the above background, the Administration undertook a review on the subject and proposed the replacement mechanism. Under the proposed mechanism, the votes cast by electors in elections in the GCs and the new District Council (DC) functional constituency (FC) will carry a dual effect:

(a) Firstly, the higher the number of votes secured by a candidate list, the higher the chance of candidates becoming Members under that election.

(b) Furthermore, the higher the number of remaining votes which are secured by a candidate list, the greater the opportunity of these candidates becoming Members in future under the replacement mechanism in the event of vacancies arising mid-term. Therefore, the proposed replacement mechanism will work according to the votes cast by electors. The electorate will have the final say.

     "There are also overseas jurisdictions adopting the proportional representation electoral system which fill vacancies arising mid-term according to the votes cast in the previous general election, instead of conducting by-elections. Applying this arrangement in Hong Kong would allow both large and small political groups and individual candidates to stand a chance to fill the vacancies in accordance with the overall will of the electorate.

     "As for the traditional FCs, since the elections are not conducted under the list proportional representation electoral system, by-elections will continue to be conducted to fill any vacancy arising mid-term.

     "We hope that the legislation could be passed before the LegCo recess in mid-July. This would allow prospective candidates to the DC Election in November to know clearly that if they are elected, they could become Members of the LegCo or become replacement candidates under the proposed mechanism if they stand in the LegCo election for the new DC FC next year. The Government considers it important to legislate as soon as possible so that the candidates to the DC Election would be fully aware of this arrangement. At the same time, we consider it necessary to have more time after the enactment of the legislation, preferably around a year, to educate and publicise to the community that under the new arrangement, the votes of the electors will carry a dual effect: they will elect LegCo Members into the Council, and determine the replacement candidate in case of vacancies arising mid-term."

Ends/Sunday, June 26, 2011