|SCA moves second reading of bill to increase 10 DC elected seats
The Secretary for Constitutional Affairs, Mr Stephen Lam, today (October 9) moved the Second Reading of an Amendment Bill in the Legislative Council to give effect to a package of proposals related to the 2003 District Council (DC) Elections. These proposals included adding a total of 10 elected seats to the Yuen Long, Sai Kung and Islands DCs and deferring the publication dates of electoral registers.
The Government has also taken this opportunity to make technical amendments to the DC Ordinance by replacing some outdated terms and expressions therein.
Moving the Second Reading of the Electoral Provisions (Miscellaneous Amendments) Bill 2002, Mr Lam said that in response to the views of the LegCo and the DCs, he had decided to propose that in light of the significant increase of population in the Yuen Long, Sai Kung and Islands Districts, six, three and one elected seats should be added to the three DCs respectively.
The existing voter registration cycle would also be revised accordingly so as to provide the Electoral Affairs Commission (EAC) with the necessary time to redraw the constituency boundaries in accordance with the latest number of elected seats for the three DCs, and to complete the voter registration exercise.
Mr Lam said, "The EAC is originally required to submit recommendations on constituency boundaries for the second term DCs to the Chief Executive (CE) on or before 27 November 2002.
"To provide the EAC with the necessary time to redraw the constituency boundaries and conduct public consultation in the light of the changes to the number of elected seats for the three DCs, the CE had given approval, under the EAC Ordinance, to extend the above deadline by six months to May 27, 2003."
Mr Lam said, " This does not mean that the constituency boundaries for the 2003 DC elections would not be finalized until May next year.
"We expect that the EAC will be able to consult the public on its delineation proposals within a month after the passage of the Bill. Extending the deadline by six months serves to provide the EAC with adequate flexibility to complete the demarcation of constituencies," he said.
Mr Lam said that the REO would be able to allocate electors to the appropriate constituency on the basis of their addresses only when the EAC has finalized the constituency boundaries.
Therefore, he proposed deferring the publication dates of the electoral registers to give the REO an extension of time to complete the voter registration exercise.
"The Bill proposes that in DC election years, such as 2003, the provisional and final registers should be published in August and September respectively.
"In other years, including LegCo election years such as 2004, the corresponding deadlines will be deferred to June and July," he said.
Mr Lam said that such an amendment would reduce the time gap between the publication of electoral registers and the polling day to about two months.
This was a significant improvement when compared with the existing time gap of six months in DC election years, and four months in LegCo election years.
"This is also to respond the suggestion made by Members before the last DC elections that the time gap between the publication of electoral registers and the polling days should be shortened as far as practicable, so as to ensure the electors' data contained therein would be more up-to-date, " he said.
Mr Lam said that the number of seats to be elected in the 18 DCs was prescribed in Schedule 3 to the DC Ordinance. Pursuant to section 8 of this Ordinance, subject to the approval of the LegCo, the CE in Council could, by order published in the Gazette, amend the number of elected seats for the three DCs as specified in Schedule 3.
Mr Lam said, "Schedule 3 can be amended by way of subsidiary legislation. However, we need to revise the voter registration cycle at the same time, and this would involve amendments to two other ordinances. Accordingly, we propose to introduce the necessary amendments in the form of a composite bill for consideration by LegCo.
"Increasing the number of elected seats, redrawing constituency boundaries and deferring the publication dates of electoral registers are in effect a package of inter-related proposals. We, therefore, consider that it would be more appropriate to take them forward in a composite bill," he said.
Mr Lam said that the proposal to increase the number of elected seats for the three DCs was made to address the concerns of the LegCo and the DCs.
The extent of population increase or decrease in 15 out of the 18 districts would not exceed 10 per cent.
However, the population growth in Tung Chung, Tseung Kwan O and Tin Shui Wai, ranging between 40 per cent and 123 per cent, was far more significant than the other districts.
"The average population per constituency in Sai Kung and Yuen Long would be as high as 22,000 to 23,000 people, if the status quo were to be maintained. This would be well above the territory-wide average of 17, 635 people per constituency."
He said that in the case of Islands District, the two constituencies in Tung Chung would have to support some 60,000 people in total, if no extra elected seat were given to the new town.
He said, "With the proposed additional seats, the respective average population size per constituency for Sai Kung and Yuen Long will be brought down to a more reasonable level, but will still be higher than the other districts.
"Furthermore, given the unique circumstances of the Islands District, we propose to provide an extra elected seat for the district to cater for the increase of population in Tung Chung new town."
Mr Lam said that apart from preserving the integrity of the new town and rural constituencies in these districts, the proposal would also enable the relevant DCs to better respond to, and take care of, the needs of local residents.
The composition and number of seats of the other 15 unaffected DCs would remain the same. Most of the LegCo and DC members found the principle of maintaining the status quo for these districts, which was put forward by the Government earlier in the year, acceptable.
End/Wednesday, October 9, 2002.