Provisional Legislative Council

PLC Paper No. CB(2)746
(These minutes have been
seen by the Administration)

Ref : CB2/PL/CA

Provisional Legislative Council
Panel on Constitutional Affairs

Minutes of the fourth meeting held on Friday, 7 November 1997 at 8:30 a.m. in Conference Room A of the Legislative Council Building

Members Present :

Hon Andrew WONG Wang-fat, JP (Chairman)
Hon Mrs Elsie TU, GBM
Hon CHENG Kai-nam
Hon Kennedy WONG Ying-ho
Hon CHIM Pui-chung
Hon KAN Fook-yee

Members Absent :

Hon TSANG Yok-sing (Deputy Chairman)
Hon James TIEN Pei-chun, JP
Hon David CHU Yu-lin
Hon Bruce LIU Sing-lee
Hon Ambrose LAU Hon-chuen, JP
Hon CHOY So-yuk

Public Officers Attending:

Mr Michael M Y SUEN
Secretary for Constitutional Affairs

Mr Robin IP
Deputy Secretary for Constitutional Affairs

Mr LEE Lap-sun
Deputy Secretary for Home Affairs

Miss Shirley YUNG
Principal Assistant Secretary for Constitutional Affairs

Miss Angela LUK
Assistant Director of Home Affairs

Mr LI Wing
Chief Electoral Officer
Registration and Electoral Office

Clerk in Attendance :
Mrs Percy MA
Clerk to Panel

Staff in Attendance :
Mrs Justina LAM
Assistant Secretary General 2

Miss Flora TAI
Senior Assistant Secretary (2) 3

I.Confirmation of minutes of previous meetings and matters arising
(PLC Paper Nos. CB(2) 502 and 503)

The minutes of the meetings held on 3 October and 13 October 1997 (issued vide PLC Paper No. CB(2) 546 on 5 November 1997) were confirmed without amendment.

2.In response to Mr KAN Fook-yee"s question concerning the entitlement of Mainland officials and members of National People"s Congress to use VIP suites at the airport and railway terminus raised at the meeting held on 3 October 1997, Secretary for Constitutional Affairs (SCA) responded that a decision on the matter had been reached, although a formal announcement had yet to be made.

II.Voter registration drive for the 1998 Legislative Council election
(PLC Paper No. CB(2) 537(01))

3.At the invitation of the Chairman, SCA briefed members on the information paper on voter registration (VR) drive for the 1998 Legislative Council (LegCo) election and supplemented the following -

  1. A person who had yet to be registered as an elector could apply for registration in the 1998 Provisional Register (PR) not later than 16 January 1998;

  2. The PR and the Final Register (FR) would be published and made available for public inspection not later than 15 February and 15 March 1998 respectively;

  3. For 1998, appeals might be lodged against any decision of the Eelectoral Registration Offfice in relation to the compilation of the PR before 21 February 1998;

  4. A person registered as an elector must be a permanent resident of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (HKSAR) in order to comply with the requirement stipulated under the Basic Law. A publicity programme had been launched to remind persons who wished to be registered as an elector but had not obtained a permanent identity card to make an early application to the Immigration Department as it would normally take six weeks to process such applications; and

  5. VR for functional constituencies would commence the following week. Guidance notes and application forms would be made available in District Offices and on the Internet.

Publicity programme targeted at persons of non-Chinese nationality

4.The Chairman asked and SCA responded that a person of non-Chinese nationality would not be able to register as an elector before establishing his/her permanent resident status. These persons should make an early application to the Immigration Department, preferably before the end of November 1997, so that they could be registered in time for the 1998 LegCo election. The Administration had already advertized through the electronic media, newspapers, posters and leaflets to remind the public that only permanent residents of the HKSAR were entitled to vote in the 1998 LegCo election. Mrs Elsie TU expressed concern that many eligible persons for permanent residency might find it inconvenient to go to the Immigration Department to obtain the relevant application forms. She said that it would be helpful if these application forms could be sent to them upon request by telephone.

5.In response to members on the VR drive for persons of non-Chinese nationality, SCA said that the Administration had adopted a targeted approach. He personally had talked to Consul Generals in Hong Kong seeking their assistance in distributing VR application forms and in encouraging their citizens who were eligible to become permanent residents to have their permanent resident status established to register as electors. Liaison with foreign chambers of commerce for the same purpose would also be made. The Administration would also distribute leaflets on voter eligibility at selected locations such as Discovery Bay and places of worship where there were contingents of expatriates. Deputy Secretary for Constitutional Affairs (DS(CA)) added that information on voter eligibility was obtainable by fax or via the Internet.

Voter registration for geographical constituencies

6.SCA reiterated that the target of the household visits from 6-12 December 1997 was to achieve a high registration rate. About 30,000 temporary staff in uniform would visit about two million households and a hotline service would be provided for the public to make inquiry if in doubt. He also assured members that precautionary measures had been taken to ensure the safety of the temporary staff. During the visits, they would encourage eligible persons to register as electors and take the opportunity to update the existing electoral roll. In case of failure to contact, a notification card would be left behind for follow-up visits. Several follow-up visits would be made if necessary.

7.The Chairman asked and SCA responded that an individual could apply to register as an elector in both the GC and FC elections at the same time. In response to the Chairman's further enquiry, Chief Electoral Officer explained that GC electors for the 1998 LegCo election must be registered before 16 January 1998 for inclusion in the electoral roll for the 1998 LegCo election. Applications sent by post should be received by the REO by the same date. Mr CHENG Kai-nam suggested and SCA agreed to disseminate a clear message to the effect that VR was an on-going process and that the public could still apply for registration as electors after the deadline of 16 January 1998 but they could only vote in LegCo elections after 1998.Adm

8.Responding to the Chairman, Principal Assistant Secretary for Constitutional Affairs (PAS(CA)) informed members that subsidiary legislation on the appeal procedures for the registration of elector, would be tabled at the Provisional Legislative Council shortly. Mr CHENG Kai-nam asked the Administration to consider ways to deal with a situation where a person claimed that he/she had registered but his/her name had not appeared in the PR. PAS(CA) said that the Electoral Registration Officer (ERO) would publish a PR and an omissions list for public inspection. Any person who was dissatisfied with a decision of the ERO in respect of the registration of electors could lodge an appeal to the Revising Officer. Chief Electoral Officer added that the ERO would publish a notice in newspapers when the PR and the omissions list had been prepared and were made available for public inspection in District Offices and the Registration and Electoral Office.

9.In response to Mr KAN Fook-yee's enquiry, DS(CA) explained that submitting a VR application form by fax was not acceptable because it was a legal requirement for an applicant's original signature to appear on the application form. On the door-to-door household visits, he pointed out that visits would be made during daytime on 6 and 7 December 1997 and after office hours from 8 December to 12 December 1997. In this regard, Mr KAN remarked that evening visits during the weekend would be more effective. At Mr KAN's request, SCA agreed to consider installation of a faxline service for written enquiries.Adm

10.In response to Mr CHENG Kai-nam, SCA said that after the VR exercise, publicity activities would be launched to enhance public awareness of and participation in the election.

11.The Chairman asked whether the Administration would allow members of mutual-aid committees and kai-fong associations to assist in the VR exercise. SCA said that assistance by way of distributing VR application forms to households would be welcome but registration work should be done by the temporary staff employed by Government. Deputy Secretary of Home Affairs (DS(HA)) supplemented that members of these bodies could be helpful because they were familiar with the residents and their presence during the visit could enhance the safety of the temporary staff. In this regard, Mrs Elsie TU expressed concern that political groups might make use of such an opportunity as a canvassing activity for a particular candidate in the election. She said that distributing VR application forms in the name of a potential candidate should be forbidden. DS(HA) pointed out that the Administration would not allow any potential candidate to use the VR campaign to hand out election materials. He stressed that VR was a neutral exercise and that the Administration would take special care in preventing people from transforming the exercise into a canvassing activity for a particular candidate.

Voter registration for functional constituencies (FCs)

12.Referring to the Administration's advice that the REO would approach, inter alia, various representative organizations to obtain information of eligible voters of FCs and then send appeal letters and application forms to these eligible electors, Mr Kennedy WONG asked whether the Administration would verify information provided by the organizations e.g. whether the 12 month-rule had been complied with. SCA responded that the Administration could not check each and every application forms submitted, but would conduct random checks. He pointed out that it was a criminal offence to make a false statement in an application form. PAS(CA) added that in case of doubt, the REO would require an applicant to provide further information before making a decision as to whether the applicant was eligible to be registered. DS(CA) said that eligible electors for FCs would be alerted of the VR exercise through advertisements on appropriate trade publications, magazines and newspapers. Guidance notes and application forms would be distributed through District Offices, and a hotline service would be provided by the REO.

13.Mr CHIM Pui-chung remarked that efforts in promoting VR for FC and EC elections should be comparable to that for GC election, having regard to the fact that the FC and EC elections would return 40 Members to the LegCo. He suggested that the Administration should take a proactive approach to boost the registration rate e.g. to follow up the matter with the eligible electors after sending them appeal letters and application forms. SCA agreed that the Administration would try its best.Adm

Electoral register for candidates

14.In response to the Chairman's enquiry, Chief Electoral Officer said that the names and addresses of electors would be made available to all candidates in both hard and soft copies as soon as possible. The information stored in the CD-ROM could be printed on mailing labels. In this regard, the Chairman asked the Administration to further look into the feasibility of having the information printed directly on envelopes so as to save time and manpower in the mailing of election related materials to electors. Adm

III.Items for discussion at the next meeting

15.Members noted that the Administration would brief the Panel on election-related matters at the next meeting scheduled for Friday, 5 December 1997 at 8:30 am. The Chairman suggested that the Administration should also brief the Panel on details of election-related subsidiary legislation to be tabled at the Council.

IV.Any other business

16.There being no other business, the meeting ended at 9:40 am.

Provisional Legislative Council Secretariat
17 December 1997