Provisional Legislative Council

PLC Paper No. CB(2)950
(These minutes have been
seen by the Administration)

Ref : CB2/PL/CA

Provisional Legislative Council
Panel on Constitutional Affairs

Minutes of the meeting
held on Friday, 9 January 1998 at 8:30 a.m.
in the Chamber the Legislative Council Building

Members Present :

Hon Andrew WONG Wang-fat, JP (Chairman)
Hon TSANG Yok-sing (Deputy Chairman)
Hon James TIEN Pei-chun, JP
Hon Kennedy WONG Ying-ho
Hon Bruce LIU Sing-lee
Hon Ambrose LAU Hon-chuen, JP
Hon KAN Fook-yee

Members Absent :

Hon David CHU Yu-lin
Hon Mrs Elsie TU, GBM
Hon CHENG Kai-nam
Hon CHIM Pui-chung
Hon CHOY So-yuk

Public Officers Attending :

Mr Robin IP
Deputy Secretary for Constitutional Affairs

Ms Wendy CHEUNG }Item
Principal Assistant Secretary for Constitutional Affairs 2}IV only

Miss Shirley YUNG
Principal Assistant Secretary for Constitutional Affairs 4

Mr Augustine L S CHENG }Item III
Deputy Director of Home Affairs }only

Mr LI Wing
Chief Electoral Officer

Clerk in Attendance :

Mrs Percy MA
Clerk to Panel

Staff in Attendance :

Miss Flora TAI
Senior Assistant Secretary (2) 3

I.Confirmation of minutes of previous meetings and matters arising

(PLC Paper Nos. CB(2) 762 and CB(2) 813)

1.The minutes of the meetings held on 7 November and 25 November 1997 (issued vide PLC Paper Nos. CB(2) 762 and CB(2) 813 respectively) were confirmed without amendment.

II.Information papers issued since the last meeting

(PLC Paper Nos. CB(2) 759 and CB(2) 824)

2. Members noted the short note on election expenses limits and the letter dated 24 December 1997 from the Secretary for Constitutional Affairs appending information on matters arising from the meeting held on 7 November 1997. The short note and the letter had been issued vide PLC Paper Nos. CB(2) 759 and CB(2) 824 respectively.

III.Progress of voter registration campaign

(PLC Paper Nos. CB(2) 812(01) and CB(2) 838(01))

3.DS(CA) informed members that the Secretary for Constitutional Affairs sent his apology for being unable to attend the meeting, due to other duty commitment.

4.Members noted that the Administration had provided information papers on the progress of voter registration (VR) campaign for the 1998 Legislative Council (LegCo) elections, and on the voter registration for functional constituencies (FCs) and Election Committee (EC) Subsectors. The papers had been issued to members vide PLC Paper Nos. CB(2) 812(01) and CB(2) 838(01) respectively.

VR for Geographical Constituencies (GCs)

5. In view of the poor response to the VR drive and the huge amount of public money spent in the exercise, some members asked whether the Government would consider introducing a compulsory or an automatic registration system of electors for future GC elections. DS(CA) said that the method of VR for future elections would be considered in a comprehensive review to be conducted after the 1998 LegCo elections. However, he stressed that the VR drive had achieved the following -

  1. providing the opportunity and convenience for eligible electors to get registered at their doorstep;

  2. updating information on the existing electoral roll e.g. change of residential address;

  3. fostering public awareness of the coming LegCo elections; and

  4. providing an excellent lesson on civic education for the 30,000 VR Ambassadors.

VR for FCs and EC Subsectors

6.Referring to the unsatisfactory result of the VR drive in respect of FCs and EC Subsectors, Mr James TIEN was of the view that the Government had not put in sufficient efforts in promoting the VR. Mr Howard YOUNG attributed the overall low VR rate to a lack of understanding of the registration system among the electors. He pointed out that some corporate electors were not aware that they had to apply for registration because of the re-introduction of corporate voting. Some of them were also not aware of the need to appoint an authorized representative (AR) for the purpose of casting a vote at the election.

7. DS(CA) said that enquiries could be made to the Registration and Electoral Office (REO) through the telephone hotline service. The following steps were also being taken to urge eligible FC electors and voters for EC subsectors to get registered, to remind corporate electors or voters to appoint their ARs and to explain the VR procedures -

  1. the REO would continue to make telephone calls to the recipients of the notifications and invitation letters;

  2. the Constitutional Affairs Bureau and the REO had lined up a series of briefing sessions for major organizations; and

  3. announcements of public interest on television and radio and newspaper advertisements had been arranged.

8.In response to Mr Howard YOUNG on whether appointment of ARs could be made before publication of the FC Final Register (FR), Chief Electoral Officer (CEO) explained that a corporate elector or a corporate voter could vote only through an AR and the first appointment of which must be made not later than 16 January 1998. A person must be a registered GC elector in order to be appointed as an AR. Under the Electoral Affairs Commission (Registration) (Electors for FCs) (Voters for Subsectors) (Members of EC) (LegCo) Regulation, substitution and replacement of an AR could be made up to 14 days before the relevant polling day.

9. The Chairman asked and CEO responded that the FC Provisional Register (PR) and the FR would be published and made available for public inspection not later than 15 February and 15 March 1998 respectively. It was possible for an alteration to be made to particulars in VR applications which had been submitted before the deadline of 16 January 1998. Individuals/bodies could make a request to the Electoral Registration Officer (ERO) to correct the particulars in their VR applications not later than 25 January 1998 so that the particulars so corrected could be entered into the PR. For alteration of entries in the PR after its publication, a request should be made to the ERO not later than 21 February 1998 so that the particulars so corrected could be reflected in the FR.

10. In response to members’ enquiries, CEO explained that it had been specified in the notifications/invitation letters that a person/body would only be eligible to register as an elector/voter in one FC and one EC Subsector to which the person/body belonged. If a person/body had submitted more than one application, the last one received by the ERO would prevail. In case of doubt, ERO would seek clarification from the person/body concerned. DS(CA) added that an AR who vote on behalf of a corporate elector or a corporate voter should not be regarded as casting the vote in a personal capacity. Hence, a GC elector who was also an individual elector of an FC and an AR of a corporate elector of another FC could cast three votes.

11. Mr Bruce LIU asked and DS(CA) confirmed that local deputies to the National People's Congress and Members of the Provisional Legislative Council, being ex-officio EC members, could choose to vote in the FC to which they belonged but only by giving a notice to the ERO declining registration in the EC.

12. Mr James TIEN queried whether the REO was able to screen out cases in which a corporate elector had appointed different ARs for elections in respect of FC or EC Subsector, or a person had been appointed as an AR for more than one corporate elector. CEO assured members that the REO would make cross reference and screen out any anomalous cases.

13. Mr James TIEN expressed concern about the system of registration by notification. He referred to a situation where a person who received more than one notification in respect of FCs for which he was eligible to be registered. He pointed out that in the event that the person had not responded to any of the notifications received within the specified period, the person would be registered as an elector for more than one FC. Principal Assistant Secretary for Constitutional Affairs 4 (PAS(CA)4) responded that the REO would cross check the identity card number of registered individual electors and the business registration number of registered corporate electors before publication of the PR in order to prevent any double registration.

14. The Chairman concluded the discussion by saying that the unsatisfactory result of the VR drive might be due to the complicated VR procedures. He urged the Administration to step up its publicity efforts before 16 January 1998.

IV.Entitlement of deputies of National People's Congress in using VIP suites at the airport and railway terminus

15.Members noted that questions on the entitlement of deputies of National People's Congress (NPC) in using VIP suites at the airport and railway terminus were raised at the meeting held on 13 October 1997. At the invitation of the Chairman, Principal Assistant Secretary for Constitutional Affairs 2 (PAS(CA)2) said that the Director of Protocol had issued letters to the local serving deputies to the NPC on 22 December 1997 advising that they would be entitled to use the VIP suites at the airport and railway terminus with effect from 1 January 1998.

16. Mr KAN Fook-yee said that he had written to the Director of Protocol suggesting that a protocol passageway should be provided at the airport and railway terminus for eligible persons to use, in order to reduce the workload on protocol staff. PAS(CA)2 responded that the Director of Protocol had taken note of Mr KAN's proposal and responded to Mr KAN. The Director of Protocol would consider Mr KAN's suggestion, having regard to manpower resources and availability of space.

17.Mr James TIEN asked and PAS(CA)2 responded that compilation of a list of persons eligible for the VIP facilities was a matter for the Director of Administration, though she understood that the Administration had not published such a comprehensive list. However, the Director of Protocol had already informed all the eligible persons of their entitlement in writing. In response to the Chairman, PAS(CA)2 undertook to revert to members, after confirmation with the Director of Protocol, on whether honorary consuls were entitled to use VIP suites at the airport and railway terminus. Adm

V.Proposed Guidelines on Election-related Activities in respect of the 1998 Legislative Council General elections (the Proposed Guidelines)

(PLC Paper Nos. CB(2) 833(01) and CB(2) 837)

At the invitation of the Chairman, CEO briefed members on the information paper regarding the results of the public consultation on the Proposed Guidelines which had been issued vide PLC Paper No. CB(2) 833(01). The Chinese version of the information paper was tabled at the meeting and issued vide PLC Paper No. CB(2) 837.

Design of ballot papers

18. In response to the Chairman on the design of the ballot papers, CEO informed members that the subsidiary legislation prescribing the electoral procedures for the 1998 LegCo elections, to be tabled in the Provisional Legislative Council on 21 January 1998, would contain samples of the ballot papers.

19. Mr TSANG Yok-sing was not convinced that allowing photographs of candidates to be printed on the ballot paper would make its size unmanageable. He cited the largest GC which had five seats as an example, saying that the maximum number of photographs of candidates that needed to be printed on the ballot paper was only 50 even if there were ten lists of candidates competing in the election. Mr TSANG also remarked that administrative measures could be introduced to ensure accurate matching of the photographs of candidates and their names on the ballot paper. He expressed concern that an illiterate elector might encounter difficulties to identify the candidates when voting if the ballot paper did not contain their photographs.

20. CEO explained that the List Voting system would be used for the 1998 LegCo GC elections and each elector would cast for the list of his preference, instead of for a particular candidate. Each elector was required to choose the number of the list of his/her preference and the order in which lists of candidates appeared on a GC ballot paper would be determined by drawing lots. In this regard, the Chairman remarked that it might be confusing to electors since numerical order was used for both the lists of candidates and the candidates on each list. CEO stressed that the Electoral Affairs Commission (EAC) had carefully considered the suggestion of printing photographs of candidates on the ballot paper. The suggestion was not considered practicable because the photographs to be printed on the ballot paper had to be of considerable size in order to serve the intended purpose, hence making the size of the ballot paper unmanageable. However, the EAC was considering the possibility of displaying enlarged copies of the introductory leaflet within the no canvassing zone outside a polling station.

21. Mr TSANG Yok-sing said that the measure being considered would serve no useful purpose because it would not enable electors to identify the candidates of their preference inside the polling stations at the time of casting the vote, and photographs of candidates would have already been displayed by candidates themselves outside polling stations.

Election deposit

22. In response to Mr KAN Fook-yee on the basis for determining the threshold for the forfeiture of election deposit, DS(CA) informed members that the matter had been discussed at a recent meeting of the Subcommittee on subsidiary legislation relating to Legislative Council election. The Administration had agreed to consider members’ views carefully and would revert to the Subcommittee as soon as possible.

Polling station

23.Mr Bruce LIU welcomed the EAC's decision to adopt the combined polling station arrangement. Mr LIU asked and CEO explained that envelopes would be provided to the appropriate elector or AR in order to safeguard the secrecy of votes. There would be three types of polling stations i.e. for GC and 22 FCs, 6 special FCs to which the preferential elimination voting system applied and the EC. The maximum number of envelopes an elector would have was three.

24.In response to Mr Bruce LIU's further enquiry, CEO informed members that the closing time of the poll would be 10:30 pm as in previous LegCo elections. However, EAC would consult EC members regarding the time for close of poll for the EC election.

No canvassing day

25.DS(CA) said that allowing canvassing activities on the election day, subject to certain restrictions, had long been the practice of previous elections in Hong Kong. However, the Chairman opined that allowing canvassing activities on the election day would be to the disadvantage of minor parties and independent candidates who might not have comparable manpower resources as candidates of major political parties. In this connection, Mr Bruce LIU referred to the practice in some overseas countries where electioneering activities (not canvassing activities) were prohibited on the election day. He suggested that EAC should study the matter with a view to allowing a cooling-off period for electors. DS(CA) said that future electoral arrangements would be a matter for consideration in the comprehensive review to be conducted after the 1998 LegCo elections.


With reference to the proposed guidelines on submission of a return of donations, Mr Bruce LIU pointed out that the real source of donations could be put in disguise as donations might be made to a political party which in turn used the money to finance its members to stand as candidates. DS(CA) reiterated that candidates were required to submit a return on donations to the EAC providing detailed information which must show the source and the amount of donations not less than $500. The return of donations could be used as the basis for investigation and prosecution by the relevant authorities, if warranted.

VI.Items for discussion at the next meeting

26.The Chairman invited members’ view on the discussion items for the next meeting scheduled for Friday, 6 February 1998 at 8:30 am.

27. Mr KAN Fook-yee referred to the Precedence Table of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (HKSAR) and remarked that it might be more appropriate to refer the Precedence Table as the "HKSAR Government Precedence Table" as prominent Central Government's officials stationing in the Region had been omitted. The Chairman suggested that the Director of Protocol be invited to respond at the next meeting.

(Post-meeting note : The Director of Protocol has advised the following -

  1. The Administration has consulted the central authorities on protocol matters concerning Central Government's officials in Hong Kong. The advice is that Central Government's officials in Hong Kong need not be included in the same precedence list as HKSAR personalities but should be treated as guests in HKSAR official functions; and

  2. it is inappropriate to refer the Precedence Table as the "HKSAR Government Precedence Table" as it includes persons such as religious leaders.

    With the concurrence of the Chairman and Hon KAN Fook-yee, the item would not be included for discussion at the next Panel meeting.)

28.Mr Bruce LIU suggested that the Administration should brief the Panel on the review of district administration at a future meeting. The Chairman asked and DS(CA) undertook to confirm whether the Administration would be ready to brief the Panel on the subject at the regular meeting in February or March 1998.Adm

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

Provisional Legislative Council Secretariat
4 February 1998