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10 more elected seats for 2003 DC elections

The Government has decided to add six, three and one elected seats to Yuen Long, Sai Kung and Islands District Councils (DCs) respectively in the next DC elections to be held in late 2003, the Secretary for Constitutional Affairs, Mr Stephen Lam announced today (September 27).

"The increase is aimed at addressing the sharp and significant population growth in the new towns of Tin Shui Wai, Tseung Kwan O and Tung Chung. The Government has taken this decision in response to the views expressed by the Legislative Council (LegCo) and DCs.

"When compared with the figures in 1999, the population growth rates of Tin Shui Wai, Tseung Kwan O and Tung Chung by 2003 are 123 per cent, 40 per cent and 92 per cent respectively.

"The Government has decided that in overall terms the status quo should be maintained for the composition of the second term DCs starting from 2004. Most LegCo Members and District Councillors generally find this direction acceptable.

"However, some Members of the LegCo and DCs have expressed their concern over the significant increase of population in the three new towns.

"Since joining the Constitutional Affairs Bureau in July, I have worked together with my colleagues to study this issue and the views collected during our consultation in June and July this year.

"We have concluded that the concern of the LegCo and DC Members can be addressed by adding a limited number of elected seats in Tin Shui Wai, Tseung Kwan O and Tung Chung for the 2003 DC elections. Our proposal has the support of the Chief Executive (CE) and other principal officials," Mr Lam said.

"We shall conduct a review on the composition of the 18 DCs after the 2003 DC elections," he added.

Mr Lam said that the number of elected seats in Yuen Long, Sai Kung and Islands DCs would be increased to 29, 20 and eight respectively in the 2003 DC elections.

With the additional seats, it was hoped that the needs of the residents in the three new towns could be more adequately taken care of.

This would also be conducive to district harmony and cohesiveness, he said.

"With the provision of additional seats in Sai Kung and Yuen Long DCs, their respective population size per constituency will be lowered to about 18,800 people, which is at a more reasonable level and closer to the norm of 17,194 people per constituency. However, it is still higher than those of the other 16 DCs.

"As for the Islands District, in view of the district's distinct geographical environment, we have decided to add one more elected seat to Tung Chung to cope with its population growth.

"The revised population size of 14,192 people per constituency in the Islands District is still higher than that of the Wan Chai District's 13,918 people, which is the lowest among the 18 districts," he said.

Concerning the unaffected 15 DCs, Mr Lam said that they would continue to be made up of the current number of elected members for the second term of the DCs.

The size of appointed and ex-officio membership for all DCs would remain at the existing level.

Mr Lam said that in response to the requests of some LegCo and DC Members raised in the past elections, the Government would also bring the publication of electoral registers as close to the polling day as possible so as to provide the most up-to-date electoral registers.

"Such an amendment has two main advantages. It will enable the candidates to prepare for elections. It will also ensure that allocation of voters to different constituencies will be based on voters' latest addresses, so that voters can vote in the constituencies where they are residing," he said.

"The time gap between the publication of the final registers and the polling day will be reduced from the existing four to six months to two months.

"At present, the provisional voter registers and final voter registers are published annually by April 15 and May 25 respectively.

"From 2003 onwards, the relevant deadlines will be deferred to August 15 and September 25 respectively in DC election years, and June 15 and July 25 respectively in other years (including LegCo election years)," he said.

Increasing the number of elected seats in the three districts and revising the publication dates of the electoral registers would necessitate amendments to a number of electoral laws, Mr Lam said.

"The Government will take forward the legislative amendments by introducing a bill into LegCo on October 9, 2002.

"We hope that the bill can be passed by LegCo as soon as possible, so that the Electoral Affairs Commission (EAC) can proceed with public consultation on the delineation of constituency boundaries for the 2003 DC elections.

"The EAC is required by law to submit to the CE its recommendations on the constituency boundaries for the 2003 DC elections on or before November 27, 2002.

"To provide the EAC with the necessary time to redraw the constituency boundaries in the light of the recommended changes for the three districts, we will seek the CE's approval to extend the statutory deadline by six months," Mr Lam said.

End/Friday, September 27, 2002.