Provisional Legislative Council

PLC Paper No. CB(2)502
(These minutes have been
seen by the Administration)

Ref : CB2/PL/CA

Provisional Legislative Council
Panel on Constitutional Affairs

Minutes of the second meeting held on Friday, 3 October 1997 at 8:30 am in Conference Room A of the Legislative Council Building

Members present :

Hon TSANG Yok-sing (Deputy Chairman/Chairman of the meeting)
Hon James TIEN Pei-chun, JP
Hon Mrs Elsie TU, GBM
Hon CHENG Kai-nam
Hon Kennedy WONG Ying-ho
Hon CHIM Pui-chung
Hon Ambrose LAU Hon-chuen, JP
Hon KAN Fook-yee

Members Absent :

Hon Andrew WONG Wang-fat, JP (Chairman)
Hon David CHU Yu-lin
Hon Bruce LIU Sing-lee
Hon CHOY So-yuk

Public Officers Attending :

Item I

Mr Michael SUEN
Secretary for Constitutional Affairs

Mr Clement MAK
Deputy Secretary for Constitutional Affairs

Mr Arthur NG
Deputy Secretary for Constitutional Affairs

Clerk in Attendance :

Mrs Percy MA
Clerk to Panel

Staff in Attendance :

Mr Raymond LAM
Senior Assistant Secretary (2) 6

1. As the Chairman was sick and unable to attend the meeting, the Deputy Chairman took the chair of the meeting.

2. Members noted the resignation of Hon CHOY So-yuk from the Panel.(Post-meeting note : With the concurrence of the Panel Chairman, Hon CHOY So-yuk subsequently withdrew her resignation.)

I. Briefing on the scope of work of the Constitutional Affairs Bureau

3.At the invitation of the Chairman, Secretary for Constitutional Affairs (SCA) briefed members on the following main programme areas of the Constitutional Affairs Bureau (CAB) -

  1. election arrangements;

  2. implementation and promotion of the Basic Law; and

  3. relations between the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (HKSAR) Government and the Central People's Government and other Mainland Authorities.

Election arrangements

SCA informed members that it was the Administration's objective to ensure that arrangements for the elections of the first Legislative Council of the HKSAR in May 1998 (the 1998 LegCo elections) would be open, fair, honest and acceptable to the community. On the progress of work in election arrangements, he stated that CAB was involved in -

  1. the enactment of legislation for the 1998 LegCo elections; and

  2. the establishment of an independent Electoral Affairs Commission (EAC) to make practical arrangements for the elections, such as formulating guidelines relating to procedures for nomination of election candidates, registration of electors, polling, counting of votes, and publicity campaigns for elections.

4.As regards voter registration for the 1998 LegCo elections, SCA informed members that about 20 000 to 30 000 people would be deployed to carry out a territory-wide door-to-door voter registration for electors of the geographical constituencies before the end of 1997. The opportunity would be taken to verify the particulars such as addresses of persons who had already been registered as electors. Adequate financial and manpower resources would be provided for the exercise. On the question of whether the proposed manpower would be adequate for the registration of over four million eligible persons, SCA stated that as the exercise involved visits to households instead of individuals, the proposed staff strength should be adequate. Publicity would be launched for the door-to-door voter registration exercise and similar to the arrangement adopted for the population census, follow-up visits would be made to households who were not at home during the initial visits. A member pointed out that there had not been any visits to her home in the previous population censuses. SCA undertook to reflect this to the Administration.Adm

5.On the question of voter re-registration, SCA clarified that, under the recently enacted Legislative Council Ordinance, re-registration would not be required for registered electors of geographical constituencies (GC), as those on the Provisional Register of June 1997 would be automatically transferred to the first Provisional Register of 1998. However, this " roll over " arrangement would not apply to registered authorised representatives (ARs) of corporate electors. Corporate electors would have to make applications to be included in the register. In addition, for the 1998 LegCo elections, a person must be a GC elector for appointment as an AR.

6.SCA informed members that since the election of the first LegCo would be conducted by the end of May 1998, it was expected that registration of Election Committee electors would be carried out in February or March 1998, to be followed by the formation of the Election Committee in early April 1998.

7.As regards opportunities for LegCo candidates to brief the public on their political platforms, SCA explained that such forums were organised in the past by the Radio Television Hong Kong and television broadcasting companies. Community halls were also made available to candidates for campaigning purpose.

8.In reply to a member's question on the division of work between CAB and Home Affairs Department (HAD) in voter registration, SCA explained that CAB was mainly involved in the policy and co-ordination aspects, while HAD was involved in practical and implementation arrangements.

Members' suggestions

9.A member suggested that the Administration should consider implementing automatic registration, as electors, of persons who applied for a Hong Kong Identity Card when they reached the age of 18. This would gradually result in the registration of all eligible persons as electors.

10.A member was concerned that the time available for voter registration was tighter than that for the 1995 LegCo elections. In order to achieve a high registration rate for functional constituency (FC) elections, especially the nine new FCs, he suggested that a " company-to-company " voter registration exercise should be conducted for the FCs. Another member remarked that, according to past experience, registration forms for electors of functional constituencies were very complicated and should be simplified.

11.A member considered it important to inform the public that the period for registration as an elector was not confined to the door-to-door registration period. An eligible person could register as an elector at any time of a year. Another member added that publicity activities should not be confined to elections for geographical constituencies. Those for other constituencies should also be given equal weight.

12.A member pointed out that there were complaints of negative campaigning, name-dropping, and dissemination of false information in previous elections. He called for the regulation of electioneering activities. SCA responded that the EAC would draw up guidelines relating to the conduct of elections. Another member commented that the EAC guidelines should also cover the handling of complaints referred to but not taken up by the ICAC on the ground that they were not related to corrupt and illegal practices.

13.SCA assured members that their suggestions would be referred to the Administration and EAC, as appropriate, for consideration.Adm
Implementation and promotion of the Basic Law

14.SCA informed members that CAB was responsible for implementation and promotion of the Basic Law which set out, inter alia, the relationship between the Central People's Government and HKSAR, the political structure and systems, the fundamental rights and duties of HKSAR residents. CAB was responsible for -

  1. advising other policy bureaux and departments on matters in their programmes to ensure full implementation of the Basic Law;

  2. advising other bureaux and departments on arrangements for the HKSAR Government to fulfil its reporting obligations under relevant provisions in the Basic Law, such as reporting the following to the Standing Committee of the National People's Congress for record;

    1. the appointment of judges of the Court of Final Appeal and the Chief Judge of the High Court;

    2. legislation enacted by HKSAR;

  3. co-ordinating matters relating to the application of national laws listed in Annex III to the Basic Law in the HKSAR; and

  4. co-ordinating the promotion of the Basic Law.

SCA informed members that the Administration was considering the establishment of a steering committee, comprising both official and unofficial members, to promote the Basic Law. He added that while the Committee on the Promotion of Civic Education had been promoting public awareness of the Basic Law, this steering committee would also co-ordinate the utilization of resources among various Government departments and voluntary agencies in the promotion of the Basic Law.

15.A member commented that training courses on the Basic Law and seminars attended by legal experts or members of the Basic Law Consultative Committee should be organized for senior civil servants. SCA clarified that training courses on the Basic Law had been and would continue to be organized for civil servants.

Relations between the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region Government and the Central People's Government and other Mainland Authorities

16.SCA informed members that CAB was serving as HKSAR Government's point of contact with the Central People's Government and the authorities of various Mainland provinces/municipalities. It also played an active co-ordinating role in organising official visits to and from the Mainland. Liaison on matters relating to HKSAR's foreign affairs would be made with the Office of the Commissioner of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the People's Republic of China in the HKSAR, whereas liaison on matters relating to the Central People's Government and the authorities of provinces/municipalities would be made through the Hong Kong and Macau Affairs Office of the State Council. In performing these tasks, CAB would seek to -

  1. develop effective channels of communication between the HKSAR Government and the Mainland, including the Central People's Government and other Mainland authorities; and

  2. ensure that the HKSAR's relationship with the Mainland accorded with the Basic Law and the " One Country, Two Systems' principle.

17.In response to a member, SCA clarified that while HKSAR Government was considering the establishment of a Beijing office, it had no plans to establish offices in any other provinces/ municipalities.

18.Some members expressed concern about the assistance available to HKSAR residents encountering problems, especially those arising from default property developments or financial disputes, in the Mainland. They pointed out that many people had complained of not knowing where to seek help in the Mainland and urged the Administration to adopt a pro-active role in assisting these people. SCA responded that the HKSAR Government had to examine each case before deciding on the steps to be taken. Where necessary, CAB would raise the matter with the Hong Kong and Macau Affairs Office, which would liaise with the Mainland authorities concerned. For cases involving only business disputes, it would be difficult for the HKSAR Government to intervene unless personal freedom was endangered. He assured members that the effectiveness of such an arrangement would be monitored and reviewed by the Administration.Adm

19.As regards a member's question on the level of Mainland officials entitled to use the VIP suites at the airport and railway terminus, and whether members of NPC were entitled to use these VIP suites, SCA explained that the issues were being reviewed by the Administration. A decision was expected in three to five weeks' time. Adm

II.Items for discussion at the next meeting

20.Members noted that the next regular meeting of the Panel was scheduled to be held on 7 November 1997 at 8:30 am. Members were invited to write to the Clerk to propose discussion items for the meeting.

21.Members noted that the subsidiary legislation relating to voter registration would be introduced into the PLC in October/November 1997. It was considered not necessary to include the item in the agenda for the next Panel meeting, as a subcommittee might have been formed under the House Committee to scrutinize the subsidiary legislation before the meeting.

III.Any other business

Briefing by the Secretary for Constitutional Affairs on the Chief Executive's Policy Address 1997

22.Members were reminded that the Panel meeting to receive SCA's briefing on the Chief Executive's Policy Address 1997 would be held on Monday, 13 October 1997 at 2:30 pm in the Chamber of the Legislative Council Building.

Schedule of regular meetings for January to March 1998

23.Members noted that regular meetings of the Panel had been scheduled on the first Friday of each month and agreed to schedule the meetings for January to March 1998 as follows -Friday, 9 January 1998 at 8:30 am Friday, 6 February 1998 at 8:30 amFriday, 6 March 1998 at 8:30 am(Post-meeting note : The meeting in March has been rescheduled to be held on 13 March 1998.)

24.There being no other business, the meeting ended at 10:00am.

Provisional Legislative Council Secretariat
5 November 1997