LC Paper No. CB(2)2694/98-99
(These minutes have been
seen by the Administration)
Ref : CB2/BC/17/98
Bills Committee on Elections (Corrupt and Illegal Conduct) Bill
Minutes of the fourth meeting
held on Monday, 22 March 1999 at 8:30 am
in Conference Room A of the Legislative Council Building
Members Present :
Hon Ronald ARCULLI, JP (Chairman)
Hon Cyd HO Sau-lan
Hon NG Leung-sing
Hon LEE Wing-tat
Hon Mrs Selina CHOW LIANG Shuk-yee, JP
Hon Jasper TSANG Yok-sing, JP
Hon Ambrose LAU Hon-chuen, JP
Hon Emily LAU Wai-hing, JP
Dr Hon TANG Siu-tong, JP
Member Absent :
Hon Gary CHENG Kai-nam
Hon CHAN Yuen-han
Hon Andrew WONG Wang-fat, JP
Hon CHOY So-yuk
Public Officers Attending :
Mr Robin IP
Deputy Secretary for Constitutional Affairs
Mr Bassanio SO
Principal Assistant Secretary for Constitutional Affairs
Mr James O'NEIL
Deputy Solicitor General (Constitutional)
Ms Phyllis KO
Acting Deputy Principal Government Counsel (Elections)
Clerk in Attendance :
Mrs Percy MA
Chief Assistant Secretary (2)3
Staff in Attendance :
Mr Arthur CHEUNG
Assistant Legal Adviser 5
Mr Paul WOO
Senior Assistant Secretary (2)3
I. Meeting with the Administration
Electoral Affairs Commission (EAC)'s Draft Guidelines for the District
Councils election in 1999
The Chairman drew members' attention to LC Paper No. CB(2)1517/98-99(02)
and advised that the Administration aimed at publishing the Electoral Procedure
Regulation for the 1999 District Councils election in the Gazette not later
than early June 1999. Working backward, EAC had to publish its Draft
Guidelines in mid April so that there could be a one-month period for public
consultation, and then EAC could draft the Regulation based on the feedback
collected. The Draft Guidelines would reflect the relevant provisions
of the Bill and would be submitted to the Panel on Constitutional Affairs
for discussion when they were available.
Discussion on the Administration's response to the concerns raised at
the meeting on 10 March 1999
(LC Paper No. CB(2)1517/98-99(01))
Village representatives (VR) elections
2. Deputy Secretary for Constitutional Affairs (DS/CA) informed members
that the Administration and the Heung Yee Kuk were still considering the
suggestion to incorporate certain provisions of the Bill relating to corrupt
conduct at elections into the "Model Rules" which governed the election
procedures for VR elections. The Administration would revert to the
Bills Committee on the progress as soon as possible.
3. Mr LEE Wing-tat said that the recent ruling of the Court of First
Instance of the High Court in relation to the Hang Hau Po Toi O Village
Representatives Election held in March 1999, which held that non-indigenous
villagers had the civil right to vote in the election, had obvious impact
on VR elections which had already been held and those that had yet to commence.
As a result of the Court's judgment, the status of those elected persons
as VRs could be subject to challenge and re-elections might be necessary.
He reiterated his stance that the scope of the Bill should be extended
to cover VR elections.
4. Ms Emily LAU was concerned that the District Councils election in
November 1999 might be affected should there be appeals in the near future
which overturned the results of the VR elections already held.
5. In response, Deputy Solicitor General (Constitutional ) (DSG(C))
said that it was premature at this stage to tell what the consequences
of the Court's judgement would be. The Government might appeal against
the Court's decision. He said that the Administration was reviewing
the matter in consultation with the Heung Yee Kuk and the Administration
would advise the Bills Committee of the outcome as soon as it was in a
position to do so.
6. The Chairman considered that the time required for the two-tier appeal
procedure, i.e. an initial appeal to the Court of Appeal and then a further
appeal if necessary to the Court of Final Appeal, might affect the District
Councils election. DSG(C) replied that it was unlikely that the entire
appeal procedure could be completed before the nomination period for the
District Councils election started. Nevertheless, he anticipated
that the timing for the electoral process for the District Councils election
should not be affected. He added that as the position now stood,
the Court's judgment only affected one VR election. In the absence
of challenges against the outcome of other elections already held, the
results of those elections remained valid.
|7. The Chairman and Ms Emily LAU pointed out that as the Chairmen
of Rural Committees (RC) were ex-officio members of the District Councils
and the route to RC chairmanship started with a VR election, successful
challenges against the results of VR elections would affect the composition
of the District Councils. Members requested the Administration to
explain in more detail the implications of the Court's judgment, particularly
in relation to the possible impact on the forthcoming District Councils
election such as whether it would affect the ex-officio membership of the
District Councils; whether the VR elections which had yet to take place
would be affected, and if so, how the Administration would deal with such
8. The Chairman advised that the Court's judgment would be circulated
to membrs for information.
(Post meeting note : A copy of the Court's judgment has been issued
for members' information vide LC Paper No. CB(2)1546/98-99(01) dated 23
Definition of "advantage"
9. DSG(C) advised that the definition of "advantage" under the Corrupt
and Illegal Practices Ordinance (CIPO) was modelled on the definition under
the Prevention of Bribery Ordinance, with suitable modifications so that
the definition applied specifically to the conduct of elections.
The proposed definition in the Bill largely reflected the existing provisions
in CIPO. By introducing the element of "valuable consideration" and
defining "valuable consideration" as "money or anything worth money", the
present drafting achieved better clarity regarding the meaning of "advantage".
In addressing members' concern expressed at the last meeting, DSG(C) said
that the way that the existing provisions in CIPO had been administered
was that small tokens handed out during an election campaign which only
had a nominal value were not regarded as valuable consideration.
He added that in understanding how a specific term actually operated in
a statute, it was necessary to look at the term in the overall context
of the substantive clauses in which the term was used, rather than just
referring to the interpretation section providing the definition.
10. In response to the Chairman, Assistant Legal Adviser (ALA) said
that the proposed definition of "valuable consideration" in the Bill was
in line with the common law interpretation of the term. The definition
of "advantage" in the Bill was comparable to the existing definition in
CIPO. Regarding the new definition of "advantage" in the Bill, the
proposed substitution of the reference to "fee, reward or commission consisting
of money or of any valuable security or of other property or interest in
property of any description" in paragraph (a) of the existing definition
in CIPO with "valuable consideration" could have the effect of simplifying
the definition without any substantive change in meaning. He further
pointed out that in CIPO, the concept of "valuable consideration" applied
in the context of "election donation" rather than in the context of "advantage",
and "valuable consideration" was not a defined term in CIPO.
11. The Chairman was concerned that with "advantage" and "valuable consideration"
so defined in the Bill, the conduct of political parties assisting their
party members or staff members to run as candidates at an election could
fall within the scope of clause 7 as a corrupt conduct to bribe candidates.
Echoing the Chairman's view, Mr TSANG Yok-sing pointed out that "advantage"
by definition included "any office, employment or contract". As such,
a political party offering to employ a party member to relieve him from
his existing job so as to facilitate him to stand as a candidate at an
election would be regarded as offering an advantage as an inducement for
the person to stand as a candidate under clause 7(1)(a). The Chairman
opined that the law should not discourage political parties from developing
12. In reply, the Administration said that the law allowed candidates
at an election to receive election donations, including donations from
political parties of which they were members. Paragraph (g) of the
definition of "advantage" provided that "advantage" excluded "an election
donation if particulars of the donation are given in an election return
that has been lodged with the appropriate authority". The EAC Guidelines
also specified the procedures for the proper submission of election returns.
In the event of legal proceedings, whether or not the candidate had followed
the EAC Guidelines would be a relevant factor for the consideration of
13. Mr LEE Wing-tat said that the Bill provided that election donations
were for the purpose of meeting the cost of the candidate's election expenses.
The salary of a candidate should not be treated as an election donation
from his employer. ALA said that election donation referred to money,
goods or services given to or in respect of a person whose candidature
had been established. He agreed that the sum which a person normally
received as salary might not be election donation.
|14. Members requested the Administration to respond to the concern
that an offer of employment or any other form of assistance, by an employer
or an organization such as a political party, to a person to enable the
person to stand as a candidate at an election might be considered as offering
an advantage under clause 7 of the Bill.||Adm|
"Advantage" vs "Election donation"
15. ALA said that "advantage" was defined in clause 2 of the Bill to
exclude an election donation if particulars of the donation were given
in an election return that had been lodged. Under clause 36, an election
return setting out a candidate's election expenses and election donations
was to be lodged "within 30 days after the publication of the results of
the election, or within such extended period as may be allowed by the Court".
ALA asked whether, by virtue of these provisions, it meant that it would
be impossible to ascertain an election donation, or an advantage, until
after an election return had been lodged in accordance with clause 36.
16. The Administration replied that it was the intention that candidates
could make advance declaration on election donations. The EAC would
include a provision on "advance return of donations" in its Guidelines
to enable a candidate to make advance disclosure to the EAC of any donations
received before the publication of election results.
17. Members requested ALA to further clarify with the Administration
on his queries.
(Post meeting note : ALA's letter dated 22 March 1999 to the Administration
and the latter's reply dated 25 March 1999 have been circulated for members'
information vide LC Papers No. CB(2)1581/98-99(01) and 1581/98-99(02) respectively
on 26 March 1999.)
Continued discussion on the Bill
18. Ms Emily LAU referred to the arrangement of the Hong Kong University
of Science and Technology to deduct salary from its employees who were
elected members of a public body, but not those who were appointed members.
She sought the Administration's clarification as to whether the difference
in treatment could be regarded as using duress ("duress" was defined in
the Bill to include causing financial loss to a person) to induce a person
not to stand as a candidate at an election and therefore in breach of clause
8(1)(a) of the Bill.
|19. The Administration agreed to seek information from the University
and revert to the Bills Committee.||Adm|
"Election advertisement" and "Election expenses"
20. In response to a question raised by Mr LEE Wing-tat, DSG(C) advised
that election expenses, in relation to a candidate or group of candidates,
included expenses incurred before the election period for the purpose of
promoting the election of the candidate or group, or prejudicing the election
of another candidate or group. A person might incur expenses in advance
of his being nominated as a candidate or his public declaration of candidature
for the purpose of promoting his own election and those expenses should
be counted towards election expenses. Election advertisements, on
the other hand, had to be in relation to a particular person or group of
persons and in contemplation of a particular election, where the candidature
of the person or group had already been established. He said that
it was unlikely that a publication published a long time before an election
could have been in contemplation of that election and in relation to a
particular candidate or group of candidates at that election. Hence,
in effect, there was a practical cut-off line in respect of election advertisements.
"Electronic transmission" and "Any other form of publication"
under the definition of "Election advertisement"
21. The Administration advised that the requirements under clause 34(1)
relating to the printing of election advertisements did not apply to notices
delivered by electronic transmission. However, the requirement under
clause 34(4) was still applicable. The EAC would issue relevant guidelines
to facilitate compliance with the legal requirements.
|22. Members requested the Administration to clarify the meaning
of "any other form of publication" under the definition of "election advertisement".||Adm|
"Free service" under the definition of "Election donation"
23. The Chairman enquired about the rationale for defining "election
donation" as including "any service provided free of charge to or in respect
of the candidate or group by a person whose occupation involves the provision
of that kind of service". He opined that with the exception of cases
like a public relations consultancy firm offering for free a comprehensive
package on electioneering strategy to a candidate, which definitely involved
a huge production cost, free voluntary services provided by individuals,
e.g. a person who was a lawyer by profession giving an opinion on electoral
laws, should not be counted as election donation. Mr Ambrose LAU
added that he could not see the logic of treating the service offered by
two persons differently in terms of election donation, where one of them
was a typist volunteering free typing work to a candidate and the other
was one who, whilst providing the same free service to the candidate, just
happened to know typing.
24. DSG(C) responded that the Bill reflected the existing provisions
in CIPO under which "donation" was defined as "any money received" and
"money" included, inter alia, "any money's worth". Therefore, "donation"
also covered the donation of a service in kind. The purpose was to
provide a level playing field for all candidates at an election.
25. Ms Emily LAU agreed that if all kinds of voluntary service were
excluded, some candidates might gain an unfair advantage over others, particularly
where the service offered involved a high cost for its production.
The question was how to ensure that the law could be enforced fairly in
|26. The Chairman, Mr TSANG Yok-sing and Mrs Selina CHOW were concerned
that there were practical difficulties in identifying the types of free
voluntary services which might be caught by the definition of "election
donation" and therefore should be reported in an election return, as well
as in quantifying in money terms the value of such services. The
Administration was requested to respond to these concerns and to
provide some examples of how "election donation" was defined and used in
(Post meeting note : The Administration's responses to the points
raised at the meeting have been circulated to members vide LC Papers No.
CB(2)1581/98-99(04) and 1680/98-99(01) dated 26 March 1999 and 13 April
II. Date of next meeting
27. The next meeting was scheduled for 29 March 1999 at 8:30 am.
28. The meeting ended at 10:30 am.
Legislative Council Secretariat
27 July 1999