Following is a question by the Hon Alan Leong Kah-kit and a reply by the Secretary for Constitutional and Mainland Affairs, Mr Raymond Tam, in the Legislative Council today (October 19):
The former Secretary for Constitutional and Mainland Affairs (SCMA) indicated earlier that the Government intended to reduce one-third of the number of appointed seats in the fourth term of the District Councils (DCs) in 2012, i.e. reducing the existing 102 seats to 68 seats; he also indicated that after the DC election, public discussions may commence on whether, inter alia, the remaining 68 appointed seats will be completely abolished in 2016 or in 2020 the latest. In this connection, will the Government inform this Council:
(a) of the justifications for the Government's decision to reduce one-third of the number of appointed seats without consulting the public and the Legislative Council; whether it had considered consulting the public on this issue which concerns a major public policy before making the decision, and of the reasons for ultimately deciding not to consult the public;
(b) of the distribution of the 34 appointed seats to be reduced in 2012 among the various DCs (list in table form); of the justifications for deciding that these 34 appointed seats be reduced; and
(c) given that SCMA indicated that the Government would "specify all of the arrangements as much as possible" within its current term, what such "arrangements" are and how it will "specify" each of the "arrangements"; whether the authorities will amend the District Councils Ordinance to remove the power of the Chief Executive to appoint DC members; if they will, of the legislative timetable; if not, the justifications for that?
(a) Over the past few years, there have been discussions in the community regarding how the issue of District Council (DC) appointed seats should be dealt with. The views expressed are diverse. Some support the abolition of appointed seats in one go while others believe that appointed seats should be abolished in phases in recognition of the important contributions made by appointed members to the community work.
After considering views from different sectors, we announced on September 14 that the DC Appointment System could be abolished in phases by going through a transitional period. As a start, we intend to reduce by one-third of the number of members to be appointed in the fourth term of the DCs in 2012, i.e. appointing only 68 members instead of 102. We also indicated that after the DC election in November, we could embark on further public discussions as to how the DC Appointment System should be dealt with, including the duration of the transitional period and how the relevant legal provisions should be dealt with, etc. Regarding whether the 68 appointed seats which remain after 2012 should be abolished over one term or two terms, the Government has an open mind.
(b) We have already indicated that only 68 members would be appointed in the fourth term of the DCs in 2012. As for the allocation of these 68 seats, the number of appointed seats in each DC basically will be reduced by one-third. If the number obtained after the reduction by one-third is not an integer, minor adjustment will be made, for instance by rounding off the number. To give an example, for a DC with three appointed seats, the number will be reduced to two. For a DC with four appointed seats, the number will be reduced to three after rounding off. For a DC with five appointed seats, the number will be reduced to three after rounding off. The resultant total number of appointed seats in the 18 DCs will be 68.
(c) Section 11 of the District Councils Ordinance stipulates that the Chief Executive may appoint as members of a DC a number of persons not exceeding the specified number. The specified number for the 18 DCs are set out in Schedule 3 to that Ordinance. According to the Ordinance, the Chief Executive is not required to appoint the full slate of the 102 DC members.
We have already announced that we are prepared to consider abolishing the 68 appointed seats which remain after 2012 over one term or two terms and that the Government has an open mind on this matter. Whether the remaining appointed seats will eventually be abolished over one term or two terms and how the relevant legislative amendments should be dealt with is a matter for public discussion. After considering the public views, we will put forth proposals for the next stage of work.
Ends/Wednesday, October 19, 2011