Provisional Legislative Council
PLC Paper No. CB(2)675
Paper for the House Committee meeting
on 28 November 1997
First report of the Subcommittee on subsidiary legislation
relating to Legislative Council election
This paper reports on the deliberations of the Subcommittee on the following two Regulations -
- Electoral Affairs Commission (Registration of Electors) (Geographical Constituencies) (Legislative Council) Regulation (EAC-GC Regulation); and
- Electoral Affairs Commission (Registration) (Electors for Functional Constituencies) (Voters for Subsectors)(Members of Election Committee) (Legislative Council) Regulation (EAC-FC&EC Regulation).
The subsidiary legislation
2. The Legislative Council Ordinance (134 of 1997) (LCO) which came into operation on 3 October 1997 provides a general legal framework for the conduct of the first general election of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (HKSAR) Legislative Council (LegCo) in 1998. However, specific regulations on arrangements for registration of electors will have to be made by the Electoral Affairs Commission (EAC). Under section 7 of the EAC Ordinance (129 of 1997) which was enacted on 29 August 1997, the EAC is given the power to make such regulations.
The EAC-GC Regulation
3. The EAC-GC Regulation sets out the arrangement for registration of electors for geographical constituencies (GCs). The Regulation was gazetted on 31 October 1997, tabled in the Provisional Legislative Council meeting on 5 November 1997 and came into effect on the same day. The deadline for amendments to the Regulation is 3 December 1997, or 10 December 1997 if extended by a resolution.
The EAC-FC&EC Regulation
4. The EAC-FC&EC Regulation sets out the arrangements for registration of electors for the functional constituencies (FCs), voters for the Election Committee (EC) subsectors and members of the EC. The Regulation was gazetted on 10 November 1997, tabled in the Provisional Legislative Council meeting on 12 November 1997 and came into effect on the same day. The deadline for amendments to the Regulation is 10 December 1997, or 17 December 1997 if extended by a resolution.
5. At the House Committee meeting on 7 November 1997, a Subcommittee was formed to study the EAC-GC and EAC-FC&EC Regulations. Under the chairmanship of Hon IP Kwok-him, the Subcommittee has held two meetings with the Administration and the Registration and Electoral Office. A membership list of the Subcommittee is in Appendix I.
6. At the House Committee on 14 November 1997, members decided that the Subcommittee should also be responsible for studying all election-related subsidiary legislation and that the membership of the Subcommittee should be re-opened. A revised membership list of the Subcommittee is in Appendix II.
Deliberations of the Subcommittee
7. Members note that for the 1998 LegCo election, the deadline for a person who has yet to be registered to apply for registration in a provisional register is 16 January 1998. The deadlines for the publication of the provisional register and final register of GC/FC/EC subsector are 15 February 1998 and 15 March 1998 respectively. The EC final register will be published within 7 days after the results of the EC subsector elections are published.
Members note that a person will be disqualified from registration as an elector, nomination as a candidate, being elected as a LegCo Member or voting if he/she commits the prescribed offences under the two Regulations.
The EAC-GC Regulation
Accuracy of provisional register and final register
8. Making reference to an incident where the names of some registered persons were struck off from the electoral roll of the 1995 LegCo election, some members express concern about the accuracy of the provisional register and final register. In response, the Administration and the Registration and Electoral Office explain the procedures for the preparation and publication of the provisional register and final register for the 1998 LegCo election and for lodging of appeals against the Electoral Registration Officer (ERO) decision in relation to voter registration.
9. Members note that a person who has yet to be registered as an elector must apply for registration not later than 16 January 1998. Late applications are to be considered for the provisional register of the following year. As the LCO provides for a oll-over�arrangement for the provisional register of GCs on 30 June 1997, all eligible electors who have already registered in the past need not apply for registration again. However, the ERO may make inquiries from persons who are registered in a final register in force to ascertain their continued eligibility for registration in the next provisional register. An inquiry must be made in writing and sent by registered post not later than 31 December 1997. Those eligible will be rolled-over to the next provisional register. Those the ERO is satisfied on reasonable grounds as being no longer eligible will be put on an omissions list. The ERO will inform the person concerned by registered post if his decision may entail negative consequences to that person e.g. not to register a person or not to consider an application for registration. Such registered post is deemed to have been received by the person concerned unless it is returned undelivered. This new arrangement will ensure that notifications of such decisions can reach the person concerned. A person who is determined to be eligible to be registered will be advised of the determination of the ERO in writing.
10. The ERO will publish a notice in the Gazette and newspapers when the provisional register, omissions list and final register are available for public inspection respectively. The provisional register will be published and made available for public inspection not later than 15 February 1998. The omissions list will be made available for public inspection when it is prepared. Any person who wishes to appeal against any decision of the ERO in respect of registration of electors and to have the Revising Officer ruling on the appeal to be reflected in the final register for the 1998 LegCo election must make a claim not later than 21 February 1998. The final register will be published and made available for public inspection not later than 15 March 1998.
11. To address members�concern relating to updating of personal particulars in the provisional register and final register, the Administration supplements that door-to-door visits to about two million households from 6 to 12 December 1997 will be made by about 30,000 temporary staff employed by Government. In case of failure to contact, a notification card will be left behind for follow-up visits. Several follow-up visits will be made if necessary. During the visits, apart from encouraging eligible persons to register as electors, the opportunity will also be taken to update the existing final register to incorporate any changes of personal particulars. The Registration and Electoral Office advises that, in addition, a registered person can make a written request to the ERO to alter an entry in the provisional register such as residential address after the deadline for registration on 16 January 1998. However, if any such request is received after 21 February 1998, a correction cannot be made in the final register. The ERO may consider it only for the purpose of compiling the next provisional register. In the circumstance, the ERO will not allocate the elector concerned to the geographical constituency to which the new residential address belongs.
12. On a member concern about the use of incorrect residential address for the purpose of vote-planting, the Registration and Electoral Office points out that any person who makes a false statement in relation to voter registration commits a criminal offence under the Regulation.
Eligibility for registration : permanent resident status
13. Members note that according to the Basic Law, all permanent residents of the HKSAR have the right to vote and the right to stand for election. Permanent residents who have reached the age of 18 are eligible to be registered as electors. Persons who have 7-year continuous ordinary residence in Hong Kong and have yet to apply for permanent resident status should make an application to the Immigration Department in order to be eligible to vote in the 1998 LegCo election. As the processing time normally takes about six weeks, an early application should be made so that the person concerned can be registered before the deadline for registration on 16 January 1998. In response to members�concern about the tight timetable, the Registration and Electoral Office advises that an approval letter issued by the Immigration Department in respect of an application for verification of eligibility for permanent identity card will be accepted for the purpose of voter registration, pending issue of a permanent identity card.
The EAC-FC&EC Regulation
Registration by notification
Members note that the Regulation introduces registration by way of notification. Under this simplified notification procedure, the ERO is empowered to require a body, a public authority or any other person to furnish information on potential FC electors and potential EC subsector voters. The information obtained enables the ERO to register eligible FC electors and EC subsector voters so that they need not apply for registration. A notification should be sent to a person/body by post at least 14 days before 16 January 1998. If the person/body has not expressly refused registration within the specified period, he/she/it will be registered as proposed in the notification. However, an application for registration prevails over a notification.
Voter registration rate
14. In view of the compressed timetable for the 1998 LegCo election, some members express concern about the voter registration rate of FCs, especially the old FCs where corporate voting has been re-introduced. They request the Administration to take positive measures to boost the registration rate. The Administration and the Registration and Electoral Office advise that various representative organizations such as chambers of commerce, government departments and professional groups will be approached to obtain information of the name and address of the eligible electors. Appeal letters and application forms will be sent to these eligible electors and advertisements will be placed on appropriate trade publications, magazines and newspapers. A member has suggested the Registration and Electoral Office to consider publicizing the number of registered electors for each FC before the deadline for registration so that the representative organisations concerned can take appropriate action if considered necessary.
Appointment of authorized representatives of corporate electors/voters
15. Members note that a corporate elector or a corporate voter can vote only through an authorized representative (AR). The qualifications for appointment as an AR, as set out in section 26(2) of the LCO, are : the individual must be a GC elector, must have a substantial connection with the corporate elector; is not a registered elector for that constituency and is not disqualified from being registered or voting under the LCO.
16. To address members�concern about the need for some corporate electors/voters to replace ARs, the Administration and the Registration and Electoral Office advise that the first appointment of an AR must be made not later than 16 January 1998, and a notice of replacement of an AR and the personal particulars of the new AR must be given to the ERO not later than 14 days before the relevant polling day. A replacement may also be appointed after the time limit if the ERO is satisfied that the AR has died or has suffered a serious illness or incapacity. In the circumstance, a notice of replacement must be delivered to the ERO not later than 3 working days before the relevant polling day.
17. On members�query about the term ncapacity�which is not clearly defined, the Registration and Electoral Office advises that the term could refer to a situation where an AR has been immobilized or hospitalized e.g. because of a serious accident. However, the term does not apply to a person who is of unsound mind and incapable of managing himself or herself and his or her affairs because such a person is disqualified from being registered as an individual elector or voter, or as an AR.
The 12-month rule stipulated in section 25 of the LCO
18. Members note that some corporate and individual electors/voters are required to have joined the relevant representative body for at least one year on the date of application for registration as an FC elector or EC subsector voter, i.e. the 12-month rule. Members ask whether an applicant is required to make a declaration in an application in relation to compliance of the 12-month rule. The Registration and Electoral Office does not consider it necessary for a declaration to be made to that effect in an application because requiring declaration on all eligibility criteria would result in a very complicated application form. However, it points out that an applicant is required to declare in an application that he/she is eligible to be registered as an elector in an FC or EC subsector applied for. The ERO will assess the eligibility of an applicant and may require the applicant to provide further information or proof on eligibility before making a determination as to whether the applicant is eligible to be registered. In addition, guidance notes on eligibility for registration in FCs and EC subsectors are prepared to assist applicants in completing application forms. A hotline service is also provided to answer enquiries relating to voter registration.
Election Committee Subsector elections
19. Noting that the EC subsector elections will be held in early April 1998, a member has suggested that the elections should be held earlier e.g. in late February 1998 to allow more time for electioneering activities for the EC election. The Registration and Electoral Office advises that this is not feasible because the statutory deadline for publication of the final register of the EC subsector is 15 March 1998.
Chinese translation of the term dentity document�in the two Regulations
20. In response to a written submission received by the Subcommittee, members have discussed whether the word or should be adopted for the Chinese translation of the term dentity document . Members note that is used in Article 24 of the Basic Law and Hong Kong permanent identity cards, whereas is adopted in existing laws.
21. According to the Law Drafting Division of the Department of Justice, the word was first adopted in the Chinese text of the Registration of Persons Ordinance in 1994, after deliberation by the Bilingual Laws Advisory Committee and approval of the Governor in Council and the Legislative Council. In proposing the word , the Law Drafting Division has made reference to various dictionaries on the use of the words or expressions. The legal adviser advises that the meaning of the two words is the same from legal point of view. According to the Registration and Electoral Office, the adoption of the word as proposed in the Regulations would not lead to any operational difficulties.
22. Most members present at the meeting feel that the word should be used in order to avoid confusion. Other members have no strong view on the existing arrangement and find the word acceptable. Since members have different views on the matter, the Subcommittee agrees that it is for individual Members to consider whether to propose any amendments to the Regulations in this respect. The Department of Justice has subsequently provided an information paper on the use of instead of for members�consideration. In order to allow adequate time for members to consider the paper, the Subcommittee has agreed to extend the scrutiny period of the EAC-GC Regulation to 10 December 1997. The Chairman will move a motion to this effect at the Council meeting on 3 December 1997.
Amendments to the Regulations
23. In response to the Subcommittee, the Electoral Affairs Commission has agreed to make a number of minor technical amendments to the two Regulations. The amendments, to be introduced in the form of Amendment Regulations, will be gazetted on 5 December 1997 and tabled in the Provisional Legislative Council meeting on 10 December 1997. The draft amendments are attached at Appendix III.
24. The Subcommittee recommends that, subject to the amendments to be made by the Electoral Affairs Commission, the two Regulations be supported.
25. Members are requested to support the recommendation of the Subcommittee.
Provisional Legislative Council Secretariat
26 November 1997
Last Updated on 4 December 1997