PLC Paper No. CB(2)393
(These minutes have been seen
by the Administration and
cleared with the Chairman)

Ref : CB2/PL/CA

LegCo Panel on
Constitutional Affairs

Minutes of Special Meeting
held on Friday, 20 June 1997 at 4:00 pm in Conference Room A of the LegCo Building

Members Present:

    Hon SZETO Wah (Chairman)
    Hon CHEUNG Man-kwong
    Hon Emily LAU Wai-hing, JP
    Hon LEE Wing-tat
    Hon James TO Kun-sun
    Dr Hon YEUNG Sum
    Hon Bruce LIU Sing-lee

Members Absent :

    Hon Ambrose LAU Hon-chuen, JP (Deputy Chairman)
    Hon Ronald ARCULLI, OBE, JP
    Hon David CHU Yu-lin
    Hon IP Kwok-him

Public Officers Attending :

    Mr Joseph LAI
    Deputy Secretary for Constitutional Affairs

    Mr Tony CHENG
    Assistant Secretary for Constitutional Affairs

Clerk in Attendance :

    Ms Doris CHAN
    Chief Assistant Secretary (2)3

Staff in Attendance :

    Miss Erin TSANG
    Senior Assistant Secretary (2)7

I. Purpose of the meeting

The Chairman said that the meeting was held to discuss with the Administration different electoral voting methods.

II. The meeting

(LegCo Paper Nos. CB(2) 2719/96-97 and CB(2) 2726/96-97)

2. Mr Joseph LAI briefed the meeting on the paper relating to voting systems for geographical elections provided by the Administration (issued to members vide LegCo Paper No. CB(2) 2719/96-97).

"Proportional representation" system

3. Referring to the Administration's comments in paragraphs 16 and 17 of the information paper at CB(2) 2719/96-97(01), Mr LEE Wing-tat asked and Mr LAI said that the information paper was submitted by the Administration in 1992 to the LegCo Select Committee on LegCo Elections for reference. The discussion on different electoral voting methods was made on an abstract basis. Theoretically speaking, under the "proportional representation (PR)" system, the larger the constituency, the more resources for canvassing and electioneering activities were required. In further reply to Mr LEE Wing-tat, he said that although the "single-seat, single vote" system had clearer lines of accountability between the individual elected members and the electorate, it did not mean that only the "single-seat, single vote" system should be adopted whilst the others should not be used.

4. Dr YEUNG Sum then suggested to place on record for public information that the Administration's position towards the PR system remained unchanged, i.e. (a) the voting and counting procedures of the PR system were often complex and far from being easy to understand; (b) large constituencies would pose problems for less well-off candidates in terms of coverage and resources requirement for vote canvassing purpose; and (c) in comparing with the "single-seat, single vote" system, it did not have clear lines of accountability between the individual elected members and the electorate. In response, Mr LAI reiterated that the information paper, which explained in broad and abstract terms the main characteristics, strengths and weaknesses of different electoral voting methods, was for reference only. There was no indepth research on each electoral voting method. He stressed that each electoral voting method had its merits and demerits. It should be for the public to decide which electoral voting method should be adopted, having regard to the local situation and general acceptability.

5. The Chairman then asked and Mr LAI said that the Administration did not have any information on whether there was any other jurisdiction which adopted the PR system on one hand and had seats returned by functional constituencies and an election committee on the other. He restated that theoretically and practically speaking, no electoral voting method was perfect; each system had its strengths and weaknesses. HKG's overriding principle in adopting an electoral system was that it must be open and fair as perceived by the public. In further reply to the Chairman, he said that the Administration regarded that the electoral voting method adopted in 1995 was open and fair.

6. In this connection, Mr Bruce LIU said that the Hong Kong Association for Democracy and People's Livelihood (HKADPL) held that the PR system should only be adopted if more than 30 seats would be set aside for direct election in the 1998 legislative elections; otherwise, the present electoral method, i.e. the "single-seat, single vote" system, should remain. In addition, HKADPL agreed to the Administration's remarks in paragraph 27 of the information paper as follows:

"...the option of using the PR system should be retained at this stage of discussion bearing in mind its merits and demerits. It should be noted however that the complexity of the PR system was a possible disadvantage in the circumstances of Hong Kong."

7. The meeting then took note of Dr YEUNG Sum's view that the PR system might have negative impact in the sense that it would not favour larger political parties with territory-wide popularity but would favour smaller political parties representing minority interests. In his opinion, interests of the minority would already be taken care of by the functional constituency seats and seats returned by the election committee, and there was no need to adopt the PR system for the 20 directly elected seats, which would only suppress the pro-democracy groups further, resulting in a fragmented legislature.

List system

8. In reply to Mr LEE Wing-tat, Mr LAI told the meeting that the list system involved the nomination of candidates in the form of a party/group list from which members of the legislature were drawn. Theoretically speaking, the list system did not necessarily have to operate on the basis of a formal political party system; a group of persons with common interests could also assemble together to participate in the electoral system. He indicated that although different counting methods would produce slightly different results, the PR system was the only system designed to ensure that the number of seats each party/group won would be proportionate to the percentage of votes it got. With reference to Mr LEE's concern that if the government was allowed to adopt the PR system and the counting method at its discretion, the Administration could indirectly influence the number of seats a party/group could obtain and hence its control on the legislature, Mr LAI pointed out that since the polling results were unpredictable, it was difficult, if not impossible, for the government to choose a particular counting method beforehand in order to limit the number of seats a party/group could win in an election. He restated that HKG would only consider whether a system was open and fair before adopting it.

9. However, the Chairman and Ms Emily LAU rebuffed that the government could, if it wished, base on the past polling results to choose a tailor-made counting method which could limit the seats a particular party/group won or play up a particular party/group which it favoured, and hence the Administration's infringement on the legislature. In response, Mr LAI reiterated that HKG's stance on the current electoral system and its continuity was clear and well known. It was not for the present Administration to account to the public or to comment on any changes which might be made to the electoral system after 30 June 1997.

"Multi-seat, single vote" system

10. In reply to Ms Emily LAU and Mr James TO, Mr LAI said that the Administration was not aware that Taiwan had adopted the "multi-seat, single vote" system when it prepared the information paper. Thus, no reference was made to the Taiwanese electoral system in the paper. To his knowledge, the "multi-seat, single vote" system adopted in Japan either had been or would soon be abolished. He restated that HKG had all along maintained the stance that it should be for the public to decide which electoral voting system should be adopted in Hong Kong in the light of its advantages, weaknesses, fairness and openness. As to how the public could decide which electoral voting system should be used in the 1998 legislative elections, the current Administration was not in a position to answer. In further response to Mr James TO, he explained that generally speaking, HKG would deliberate carefully whether a proposal would be accepted by the public before introducing it, though it could not comment on behalf of the public whether or not a proposal was fair and acceptable since the public might have its own views.

11. Dr YEUNG Sum then said that Taiwan had considered to change the "multi-seat, single vote" system to "single-seat, single vote" system on the grounds that under the former system, candidates who had triad background or financial resources but little support could easily obtain a seat in an election. Concerning Japan, the prevalence of "money politics" had also made it necessary for the Japanese government to consider replacing the "multi-seat, single vote" system by another electoral voting system for fairness and better representation of public interests. He therefore opined that if the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region Government were to consider adopting the "multi-seat, single vote" system in the post-handover elections, an indepth study and review should be made with reference to the examples of other countries, like Taiwan and Japan, where the system had been implemented.

12. There being no other business, the meeting ended at 4:45 pm.

Provisional LegCo Secretariat
12 July 1997

Last Updated on 13 August 1998