Provisional Legislative Council

PLC Paper No. CB(2)1485
(These minutes have been
seen by the Administration)

Ref : CB2/PL/CA

Provisional Legislative Council
Panel on Constitutional Affairs

Minutes of the meeting held on Friday, 13 March 1998 at 8:30 am in Conference Room A the Legislative Council Building

Members Present :

Hon Andrew WONG Wang-fat, JP (Chairman)
Hon TSANG Yok-sing (Deputy Chairman)
Hon David CHU Yu-lin
Hon Mrs Elsie TU, GBM
Hon CHENG Kai-nam
Hon Kennedy WONG Ying-ho
Hon Bruce LIU Sing-lee

Member Attending :

Hon IP Kwok-him

Members Absent :

Hon James TIEN Pei-chun, JP
Hon CHIM Pui-chung
Hon Ambrose LAU Hon-chuen, JP
Hon KAN Fook-yee
Hon CHOY So-yuk

Public Officers Attending :

Mr Clement MAK
Secretary for Constitutional Affairs (Acting)

Mrs Maureen CHAN
Deputy Secretary for Constitutional Affairs

Principal Assistant Secretary for Constitutional Affairs

Mr Stephen FISHER } For Item IV
Deputy Director of Administration} only

Clerk in Attendance :

Mrs Percy MA
Clerk to Panel

Staff in Attendance :

Miss Flora TAI
Senior Assistant Secretary (2) 3

I.Confirmation of minutes of the last meeting and matters arising
(PLC Paper No CB(2) CB(2)1169)

Members noted a typographical error in line 3, paragraph 3 of the draft minutes of the meeting held on 6 February 1998: the word "be" should be "been". Subject to this amendment, the draft minutes were confirmed.

Need for a public service legislation

2. The Chairman referred to paragraph 22 of the minutes and the letter dated 6 March 1998 from the Secretary for Constitutional Affairs (issued vide PLC Paper No. CB(2)1169(01)) concerning the subject of a public service legislation, a referral from the Panel on Public Service. Members noted that the Administration had advised that as there were judicial review proceedings (initiated by the Association of Expatriate Civil Servants) relating to the Public Service (Administration) Order before the High Court, it would not be appropriate for the Administration to comment at the present stage. Members agreed that the matter could be followed up in future, if necessary. Clerk

II. Information papers issued since the last meeting

(PLC Paper Nos. CB(2)1141(01) and CB(2)1157)

3. Members noted that the following two information papers had been issued -

  1. Basic Law Promotion Steering Committee - terms of reference and membership; and

  2. Establishment of a Hong Kong Special Administrative Region Office in Beijing.

III.Draft report of the Panel on Constitutional Affairs to the Provisional Legislative Council
(PLC Paper No. CB(2)1171(01))

4. At the invitation of the Chairman, members endorsed the draft report of the Panel on Constitutional Affairs to the Provisional Legislative Council. Members noted that a revised draft report, incorporating the deliberations of this meeting, would be circulated to members for endorsement when ready. The Chairman informed members that he would address the Council on the report on 1 April 1998.

IV. Hong Kong Special Administrative Region Precedence Table
(PLC Paper Nos. CB(2)1171(02) and CB(2)1171(03))

5. The Chairman said that Hon KAN Fook-yee had proposed at previous meetings that the "HKSAR Precedence Table" should be retitled as "HKSAR Government Precedence Table". The Chairman invited the Deputy Director of Administration (DD(A)) to brief members on the Administration's paper on the subject (PLC Paper No. CB(2)1171(03)). Members noted that the Administration considered Mr KAN's proposal not appropriate because the table, which served primarily as a reference for determining the order of precedence in terms of protocol at major official functions and ceremonies, comprised non-Government categories and it had also been widely used as a reference tool for other ceremonial occasions in the community.

6. DD(A) supplemented that the Administration had consulted the Hong Kong and Macao Affairs Office of the State Council on protocol matters concerning the officials of the Central People's Government and members of the national bodies and committees in Hong Kong. The advice was that they should be treated as guests at HKSAR official functions, and HKSAR Government officials should be treated as guests at Central People's Government official functions in Hong Kong. He stressed that it was generally understood by users that the table consisted of local officials and persons only.

7. The Chairman raised the question as to whether officials of the Central People's Government, Hong Kong deputies to the National People's Congress and Hong Kong members of the National Committee of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference should now be included in the table, notwithstanding the fact that they were excluded prior to 1 July 1997. He said that the Administration might wish to review the present arrangement in view of the reunification. After discussion, members agreed that the status quo should be maintained until further review.

V. Review of structure of district organisations
(PLC Paper Nos. CB(2)1171(04), CB(2)1171(05) and CB(2)1171(06))

8. Members noted that the subject of review of district organisations and the role of District Boards (DBs) had been discussed at the meetings of the Provisional Legislative Council members with members of the Eastern Provisional DB and Yuen Long Provisional DB respectively. The relevant extracts of the minutes of meetings, issued to members vide PLC Paper Nos CB(2)1171(04) and CB(2)1171(05), had been forwarded to the Administration for consideration.

9. At the invitation of the Chairman, Deputy Secretary for Constitutional Affairs (DS(CA)) briefed members on the Administration's paper on "The Review of Structure of District Organisations" which had been issued vide PLC Paper No. CB(2)1171(06). Members noted that an inter-departmental steering group chaired by the Secretary for Constitutional Affairs had been set up to oversee the conduct of the review. The Administration had received diverse views from members of the Provisional Municipal Councils (MCs) and Provisional DBs, political parties and other interested parties on the subject, a summary of which was at Annex to the paper. The Administration was studying the structure and functions of the district organisations, and had made a number of preliminary observations as set out in paragraphs 7-12 of the paper. It was considering how the issues identified could be addressed.

10. The Chairman then invited questions from members and asked the Administration to respond accordingly. The gist of the deliberations is summarized in the following paragraphs.

Reasons for the review

11. In response to the Chairman's enquiry about the reasons for the Chief Executive's announcement on a review of the present structure of local representative government in his 1997 Policy Address, the Acting Secretary for Constitutional Affairs (Ag SCA) said that the community had in the past identified problems with the present structure of local representative government and made requests for a review. The Provisional Legislative Council had also passed a motion on 10 September 1997 calling on the Administration to conduct a review of the current two-tier system of local representative government.

Format of the public consultation document

12. In response to members' enquiries, Ag SCA said that several broad options for change would be presented in the public consultation document but the Administration would not recommend a particular option. The Administration had identified a number of issues and was considering how the broad options could address these issues. The Administration would present a detailed analysis of the pros and cons of the various broad options in the public consultation document to facilitate the public to consider and decide the way forward. Through the review, the Administration expected to come up with a structure of district organisations which would improve administrative efficiency, ensure an effective system of public accountability, and proper allocation and use of public funds.

13. The Chairman said that the green papers on district administration and further development of representative government in Hong Kong published in 1980 and 1984 respectively had recommended only one option for public consultation. He queried why the previous approach could not be adopted for the public consultation document for the review in question. Mr Bruce LIU had a different view. He remarked that reference to these green papers might not be appropriate because the two subject matters involved were new initiatives at that time. The public should be in a better position to comment on the future development of district organisations which had been in place for many years. However, he suggested that of the various options included in the consultation document, the Administration should indicate which one was preferable to the other options.

14. In response, DS(CA) said that while views received so far on the subject were mainly concentrated on the structure of the district organisations, the Administration had placed more emphasis on studying their functions and the most appropriate structure of representative institutions that could ensure provision of efficient and effective services to the evolving community. She pointed out that the Administration, after a thorough study and analysis, would put forward recommendations in this respect.

15. With regard to the Administration's observations about the size of DB constituencies, Mr IP Kwok-him asked whether the public consultation document would cover re-organisation of DB constituencies. DS(CA) responded that the role and functions of DBs would be studied as part of the review. The Administration would also welcome views from respective DBs and individual Members on other related issues.

16. To facilitate participation of the public, Mrs Elsie TU suggested that the public consultation document should include background information such as the reasons for setting up DBs and giving MCs financial autonomy and whether the reasons still applied in the present-day situation. She also urged the Administration to give due regard to the public views received when making its final decision on the matter.

Timetable for the review

17. In response to members, DS(CA) said that the public consultation document on the review would be released in early June 1998, with a consultation period lasting for two months. From August 1998 onwards, the Administration would study the views received with a view to making a final recommendation around October 1998. As the appointment of members of the Provisional MCs and DBs was for a term not exceeding 31 December 1999 in accordance with law, an early decision had to be made on the future structure and composition of the district organisations. In the event that a major restructuring exercise was proposed as a result of the review, and having regard to the tight time frame, the Administration would consider whether the restructuring proposal should be implemented by phases.

Constitution of future district organizations

18. In response to some members' concern about the possible impact of the review on the constitution of future district organisations, e.g. whether the review would result in the reduction of the number of seats for local representative institutions, Ag SCA said that while the question raised would be given due consideration, public interest was the first and foremost concern of the Administration in making its decision on the review. However, the Chairman remarked that political feasibility was an important factor to consider.

19. Members noted that the electoral system for the first MCs and DBs after 1999 had yet to be decided. Mr TSANG Yok-sing remarked that the electoral system and the structure of the district organisations after 1999 were inter-related. He asked whether a review on the electoral system to be adopted for the district organisations would be included in the document being prepared for public consultation. DS(CA) said that the Administration would consider Mr TSANG's suggestion.

20. Having regard to the limited time available for drafting of legislation, the legislative process and making practical arrangements for the MC and DB elections, Mr IP Kwok-him asked whether the Administration would consider holding one general election for the MCs and DBs, if a two-tier system was to be maintained. DS(CA) said that the Administration would consider Mr IP's suggestion, by making reference to the modus operandi of the 1998 Legislative Council general election where Members of the different constituencies would be returned by elections held on the same day. In this regard, Mr Bruce LIU pointed out that if such an arrangement was adopted, the Administration had to make a policy decision as to whether a person would be qualified as a candidate for both the MC and DB elections. An alternative to Mr IP's suggestion was to hold a general election for DBs, but not MCs. Elected members of the MC(s) could be returned through indirect elections from among DB members. The Chairman remarked that the question relating to multiple-membership of the two-tier system could be addressed in the review, irrespective of the mode of the elections. In general, members were of the view that the Administration should spell out the electoral arrangement in the public consultation document.


21. In view of the tight time schedule and to ensure effectiveness of the review, Mr Bruce LIU reiterated that the Administration should indicate whether it was in favour of a particular option in the public consultation document. Mr IP Kwok-him shared his view. In response, Ag SCA stressed that the Administration had reached no conclusion at this stage. However, he was of the view that the Administration might, after a thorough analysis, come up with several options one of which could provide a solution to most of the problems identified. He assured members that the Administration would try its best in achieving this.

22. Ag SCA thanked members for their suggestions and undertook to take note of members' views in preparing the public consultation document. Adm

VI. Any other business

23. The Chairman advised members that no further meeting had been scheduled for the session unless there was urgent business which required the attention of the Panel. The Chairman thanked representatives of the Constitutional Affairs Bureau and members for their attendance at and contributions to the Panel meetings.

24. There being no other business, the meeting ended at 9:50 am.

Provisional Legislative Council Secretariat
9 June 1998