I move that the Legislative Council (Amendment) Bill 1999 be read the second time.
The first HKSAR Legislative Council election was successfully held last May with a record voter turnout of 53%. In accordance with the blueprint set out in the Basic Law, the second term Legislative Council will be elected in the year 2000. It is now the right time to legislate on the detailed arrangements for the election.
The Administration has all along had very clear objectives as regards the development of our electoral systems. We are committed to :-
The Administration consulted the Legislative Council Panel on Constitutional Affairs last December on the arrangements for the second Legislative Council election. The Legislative Council (Amendment) Bill 1999 (the Bill), which has been prepared taking into account Members' views, is being tabled today to amend the existing Legislative Council Ordinance to provide the legal basis for the second Legislative Council election. It also seeks to make consequential amendments to the Electoral Affairs Commission Ordinance and other relevant ordinances. I would now like to brief Members on the important provisions in the Bill.
- continuing to promote democratic development in Hong Kong in accordance with the principle of gradual and orderly progress as set out in the Basic Law.
- ensuring that the electoral arrangements are open, fair, clean and acceptable to the people of Hong Kong; and
- encouraging active public participation in future elections and enhancing public awareness of and interest in the elections.
Main Provisions in the Bill
Geographical Constituency Elections
The Bill has provided for the number of Members to be returned by geographical constituencies to be increased from 20 to 24 as stipulated in the Basic Law. These 24 members are to be returned from five Geographical Constituencies, each of them returning four to six Members. The "List Voting System", which is by now widely known and acceptable to the public, will continue to be adopted in the second Legislative Council election.
Functional Constituency Elections
The number of Members to be returned by the Functional Constituencies will remain at 30. Delineation of Functional Constituency electorates will basically be the same as that for the first Legislative Council election, except that the Urban Council and the Regional Council Functional Constituencies will be replaced by two new constituencies, namely the District Council Functional Constituency and the Catering Functional Constituency. The District Council Functional Constituency will comprise all District Council members under the District Councils Bill, while the Catering Functional Constituency will follow the same delineation as the Catering sub-sector of the Election Committee in the 1998 election.
The Bill also seeks to make a number of technical amendments to the arrangements for Functional Constituency elections to achieve clearer delineation of the Functional Constituencies. The basic principles governing elector eligibility for each Functional Constituency will be prescribed in the main text of the Legislative Council Ordinance, while the detailed list of the names of electors will be set out in the new Schedules. Moreover, we have updated the list of electors in the light of latest information, such as deleting some companies and bodies which have already ceased operation.
Election Committee Election
Electoral arrangements for the Election Committee remain broadly the same as those for the first Legislative Council election, except that the number of seats for the Election Committee will be reduced from 10 to 6. To enable the relevant provisions to apply to the second Legislative Council election, the Bill has introduced some technical amendments and consequential amendments subsequent to the establishment of the District Council and the Catering Functional Constituencies.
Improvements on Existing Electoral Arrangements
It is worth mentioning that the Bill has introduced a number of improvement measures in the light of experience gained from the first Legislative Council election. These include: -
We hope that, through the above amendments, the existing electoral legislation will be further perfected and that the relevant electoral arrangements may become more open, fair, clean and acceptable to the public. In particular, we hope that the newly introduced measures such as the advance polling scheme, will encourage more electors to participate in the coming elections and to get to know more about the election. To this end, the Administration will put in appropriate resources and continue to make every effort to urge more eligible electors to register during the voter registration drive to be conducted in early 2000.
- An advance polling arrangement has been introduced to facilitate voters, who for various reasons cannot cast their votes on the day of the general election, to vote in advance. The Chief Executive may specify one or more dates for holding an advance poll for a general election to enable electors who need to vote in advance to apply for advance polling in accordance with regulations made by the Electoral Affairs Commission. The date or dates so specified must be within 15 days before the general election day.
- Under the existing Legislative Council Ordinance, the proceedings for an election must be terminated if a candidate dies or becomes disqualified. This would not only waste the significant amount of time and money spent by the candidate(s) on election campaigning but also make the Government and the candidate(s) put in additional resources for a by-election. To minimize the risk of disruption to the electoral process, the Bill makes a series of amendments to the relevant provisions in force. For instance, the Bill allows the Returning Officer to revise the list of validly nominated candidates if, after the close of nomination but before the election day, he comes to know that a certain candidate has died or become disqualified. The election proceedings can then continue.
- In view of the functions and nature of the duty of the Privacy Commissioner for Personal Data and the Chairperson of the Equal Opportunities Commission as well as the need to ensure that they will be acting free of any conflict of interests, we propose amending the existing provisions to specify that persons holding the above two offices and staff working under them are disqualified from being nominated as candidates.
Election Advertisements on Radio and Television
I trust that Members have also noticed that the Bill does not provide for the implementation of the proposal made by the Administration last December which allows candidates to place election advertisements on radio and television at their own expense. Here I would like to explain the reason for this. After the proposal was made known, many views have been expressed by different sectors of the society. However, as opinions vary, no consensus has been reached. Against this background, we consider that it is still premature to implement this proposal and thus do not intend to implement it in the 2000 election. We will review the issue of whether this plan should be implemented in future elections after the second Legislative Council election.
Although there is still quite some time to go before the 2000 election, a number of important steps need to be completed. These include the requirement that the Electoral Affairs Commission should, in accordance with the new provisions in the Bill, conduct public consultation on the delineation of Geographical Constituencies and formulate proposals for submission to the Chief Executive by the end of October this year. A series of existing subsidiary legislation will need to be amended or re-enacted for the implementation of new provisions in the Bill. We therefore hope that the Bill tabled today can be passed before the Legislative Council goes into recess in mid-July this year so that preparations for the election may commence as scheduled.