|LC: Speech by Secretary for Constitutional Affairs
Following is the speech by the Secretary for Constitutional Affairs, Mr Michael Suen, on the motion moved by the Honourable Cheung Man-kwong to amend the Maximum Amount of Election Expenses (Chief Executive Election) Regulation at the Legislative Council Meeting today (December 12).
I object to the motion moved by the Honourable Cheung Man-kwong. The Administration considers the election expense limit for the Chief Executive (CE) election proposed by the Honourable Cheung Man-kwong groundless and not meeting practical needs. We are of the view that the limit of $9.5 million initially proposed by the Administration is more in line with the practical needs and hence no amendment is required.
Some Members have just described our proposal as ridiculous. I am very surprised at such a comment. If our proposal were ridiculous, then the Honourable Cheng Man-kwong's proposal would at least be half as ridiculous. Would it be a typical case of "a pot calling a kettle black" ?
First, I would like to elaborate on the Administration's rationale for setting the election expense limit at $9.5 million. As we have reiterated at meetings of the Constitutional Affairs Panel and of the sub-committee responsible for scrutinizing the Regulation, the election expense limit of $9.5 million is prescribed on account of the functions and powers of the office of the CE to be contended and the tremendous impact of the election platform proposed by the candidates on the residents of the SAR. The candidates, therefore, need to promote their election platform to the 6.7 million residents of Hong Kong through the Election Committee (EC) members. Their targets are not only 800 people.
Article 45 and Annex I of the Basic Law ("BL") provide that the CE shall be elected by a broadly representative EC, and be appointed by the Central People's Government. Most EC members are elected from different sectors and represent different walks of life in the community. BL 43 provides that the CE shall be the head of the Hong Kong SAR and shall represent the HKSAR. The functions and powers conferred on the CE by the BL cover a wide range of matters relating to HKSAR. The policies of the CE will affect the well-being of all residents in the HKSAR. As a result, candidates running for the office of the CE have a legitimate need to publicize their election platform to the public at large.
As such, the election expense limit for the CE election must be set at sufficient level for candidates to publicize their election platform to all residents of the HKSAR. In this connection, it is pertinent to note that the total of the election expense limits for the five Geographical Constituencies of the LegCo elections is equal to $10 million.
On the premise that candidates of the CE election need to carry out territory-wide campaign, we consider that the election expense limit should be derived having regard to the following five categories of expenses -
(a) expenses for setting up an election office;
(b) expenses for employing campaign staff;
(c) expenses for engaging professional services;
(d) expenses for carrying out policy researches; and
(e) expenses for publicity and promotion.
Members should note that $9.5 million is the ceiling on election expenses. A candidate has complete discretion to decide on the amount and types of election expenses insofar as he does not spend in excess of the prescribed election expense limit.
President, the Honourable Cheung Man-kwong moves that the maximum amount of election expenses to be incurred at the CE Election be revised and reduced to $4 million. The Government considers the proposed revision unnecessary and ill-founded.
I believe that Mr Cheung's proposal is made on the basis of the election expenses incurred in the First CE Election. At that time the total election expenses incurred by the incumbent CE amounted to about $2.7 million.
Regarding this figure, I would like to draw Members' attention to two points. First, the incumbent CE's election expenses on the First CE Election were incurred in a matter of only two months, namely from 17 October to 15 December 1996. This is clearly spelt out in the relevant auditor's report.
Our proposed limit of $9.5 million, however, is meant to cover expenses over a five-month period from December 2001 to April 2002. We consider it reasonable to make provision for expenditure needs covering five months so as to allow candidates ample time for setting up campaign offices, canvassing for votes and, subsequently, winding up campaign offices and dismissing their staff.
If expenses were calculated on a five-month basis, then the election expenses incurred by the incumbent CE in the First CE Election would have risen from $2.7 million to $6.5 million, far exceeding the expense limit of $4 million proposed by the Honourable Cheung Man-kwong.
Secondly, the incumbent CE did not send publicity materials to all residents in the territory by post in the first election. We believe that there is a need for the cost of postage to be included in the election expense limit to allow candidates to employ such a means to reach all residents in the territory. If this cost had been included, the estimated expenses of the incumbent CE in the First CE Election would have risen to $9 million.
President, we consider that it is reasonable and appropriate to set the election expense limit at $9.5 million. We have assessed the various expenditure needs of candidates in prescribing the expense limit for the Second CE Election. It roughly tallies with the expense limit set for the five Geographical Constituencies of the LegCo elections, and with the revised actual expenses for the First CE Election.
I ask on these grounds that Members vote against the motion in the name of the Honourable Cheung Man-kwong.
Thank you, President.