Provisional Legislative Council

PLC Paper No. CB(2)503
(These mintues have been
seen by the Administration)

Ref : CB2/PL/CA

Provisional Legislative Council
Panel on Constitutional Affairs

Minutes of the third meeting held on Monday, 13 October 1997 at 2:30 pm in the Chamber of the Legislative Council Building

Members present :

Hon Andrew WONG Wang-fat, JP (Chairman)
Hon TSANG Yok-sing (Deputy Chairman)
Hon Mrs Elsie TU, GBM
Hon Kennedy WONG Ying-ho
Hon CHIM Pui-chung
Hon Bruce LIU Sing-lee
Hon Ambrose LAU Hon-chuen, JP
Hon KAN Fook-yee

Members Absent :

Hon James TIEN Pei-chun, JP
Hon David CHU Yu-lin
Hon CHENG Kai-nam

Members in Attendance :

Hon Eric LI Ka-cheung, JP
Hon Henry WU
Hon Frederick FUNG Kin-kee
Hon IP Kwok-him

Public Officers :

Mr Michael M Y SUEN
Secretary for Constitutional Affairs

Mr Clement C H MAK
Deputy Secretary for Constitutional Affairs

Mr Patrick C K HO
Deputy Secretary for Constitutional Affairs (Acting)

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

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

At the invitation of the Chairman, the Secretary for Constitutional Affairs (SCA) briefed members on the following policy programmes of the CAB relating to the Policy Address 1997-

  1. election arrangements;

  2. review of district administration;

  3. implementation and promotion of the Basic Law; and

  4. relations between the HKSAR Government and the Central People's Government and other Mainland authorities.

Election arrangements

2.SCA briefed members on the latest developments concerning election arrangements. He said that the Electoral Affairs Commission had announced on 11 October 1997 its provisional recommendations on the delineation of geographical constituency boundaries in respect of the first Legislative Council elections in 1998. Members of the public could give their views to the Commission within a two-week consultation period. The Administration would submit the election-related subsidiary legislation to the Provisional Legislative Council as soon as possible.

3.SCA further informed the meeting that a territory-wide publicity campaign on voter registration would be launched. There would also be a large-scale voter registration exercise for geographical constituencies and functional constituencies during the period from December 1997 to January 1998. The objective would be to provide opportunities for all eligible electors to get themselves registered.

4.In response to a Member's question on efforts to boost voter turnout, SCA said that a large scale door-to-door voter registration exercise would be conducted with a view to achieving a 100% success rate in covering all housecholds in the door-to-door visits and as high a voter registration rate as possible. Publicity efforts would be made vigorously to encourage eligible persons to register and to vote. SCA stressed that it was necessary to enhance public awareness and participation in the election so that the whole community would be prepared to move steadily towards the long term objective of universal suffrage. In this regard, the Member suggested that more polling stations should be set up to encourage more people to vote. SCA undertook to consider his suggestion.Adm

5.In response to a Member's suggestion on advance postal voting , SCA pointed out that the Administration had not yet had a final view on the matter. However, since legislative basis was required for such an arrangement, this could not be implemented in time for the 1998 LegCo elections. At the Chairman's request, SCA agreed to seek legal advice as to whether the proposal could be implemented by way of subsidiary legislation under the existing electoral laws and revert to members in due course.Adm

6.The Chairman asked whether it would be feasible to introduce a computerized voting/counting system in the coming LegCo elections. SCA replied that one of the advantages of having a computerized voting system was the possibility of cross-station polling. However, even with cross-station polling, it was unlikely that the number of polling stations could be reduced. It would be difficult to forecast the voter turnout of individual polling stations for the purpose of making the necessary technical and operational arrangements. The Chairman added that a computerized voting/counting system could also cut down the time for counting votes. He asked the Administration to further consider the matter.Adm

7.On whether off-course betting centres of the Hong Kong Jockey Club would be used as polling stations, SCA said that other considerations apart, the idea was not worth pursuing on the ground that the physical environment of off-course betting centres allowed little privacy for an elector to cast his ballot in secret. Moreover, the 1998 LegCo elections would be held before the close of the racing season, he could not see how the Hong Kong Jockey Club could modify its computer system for voting purpose, as some people had suggested.

Review of district administration

8.Referring to the review of the present structure of local representative government, as announced in the Chief Executive's Policy Address, SCA informed members that a public consultation exercise would be carried out. He stressed that the Administration did not have any pre-conceived idea on the matter and had yet to decide on the form of consultation. As a first step, the Administration would like to gauge the views of the public on two options on the broad direction for the review, i.e. whether the existing two-tier structure should be simplified and merged into a single tier, or whether the present structure should be retained with rationalization of their respective roles and functions. The views of the municipal councils, district boards, political parties and interested groups would be sought through an informal process in the next two months .

9.With reference to the timetable for the review, SCA said that the informal consultation would be carried out from now until the end of 1997 and a formal public consultation exercise possibly in the form of issuing a green paper would commence in April/May 1998. A final recommendation would then be announced in around September 1998. As for the format and scope of the formal consultation, SCA said that this would depend on the views received in the next two months on the broad direction of the review. If there was a clear indication in public opinion in favour of a particular option on the broad direction, that option would be developed further and set out in the public consultation document; otherwise, both options would be presented in the document. A Member suggested that the criteria to be adopted in making the decision should be made known to the public.

10.A Member asked whether the review would also examine the possibilities of giving more decision-making power in respect of district affairs to district boards. SCA responded that the question which concerned the division of responsibilities between the municipal councils and district boards would not arise if the present two-tier structure was to be merged. However, if the present structure was to be retained, the Administration would need to consider ways of striking the right balance.

Promotion of the Basic Law

11.With reference to the proposed new steering committee to be chaired by the Chief Secretary for Administration, SCA advised that its functions and composition would be announced in one or two weeks' time. Relations between the HKSAR Government and the Central People's Government and other Mainland authorities

12.SCA reiterated that the SAR Government would continue to liaise with the Guangdong Provincial Government and the relevant Central People's Government authorities with a view to establishing a high level framework to study and co-ordinate major issues of mutual concern. In this connection, members noted that the SAR Government and the relevant Mainland authorities had agreed to establish a " Hong Kong and Mainland Major Infrastructure Projects Co-ordinating Committee " to replace the 'sino-British Major Infrastructure Projects Co-ordinating Committee " . However, the membership and functions of this Co-ordinating Committee would remain unchanged.

13.In response to the Chairman's enquiry, SCA explained that the CAB would no longer be required to provide close support to the Joint Liaison Group as most of its tasks had been completed. However, the CAB had taken on liaison work with -(a) the Office of the Commissioner of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the People's Republic of China in the HKSAR on foreign affairs relating to the HKSAR Government; and(b) the Hong Kong and Macau Affairs Office of the State Council on matters relating to the relationship between the Central People's Government and other Mainland authorities and the HKSAR Government.

14.Referring to one of the CAB's new commitments of giving careful consideration to the establishment of a HKSAR office in Beijing, SCA said that the matter was still under consideration. While such an office could serve as a contact point for interested parties in Beijing to make enquiries about HKSAR affairs, further consideration had to be given to the need for and size of such an office. Some members suggested that the Administration should also consider establishing offices in Guangdong and Shanghai because the former had a close relationship with Hong Kong while the latter was an important economic competitor of Hong Kong. SCA reiterated that the SAR Government maintained very close and frequent liaison with the Mainland authorities, in particular, those in the Guangdong Province. If necessary, ad hoc or co-ordinating committees could be established to discuss matters of mutual concern or interests. He further pointed out that Hong Kong and Shanghai were not necessarily competitors. Both places could at the same time contribute towards the economic development of China.

15.A Member asked whether assistance could be provided by the SAR Government to aggrieved HKSAR residents encountering problems in the Mainland. SCA explained that there were several redress channels available. Firstly, an aggrieved person could apply for judicial review in cases involving Mainland law enforcement agencies. Secondly, an aggrieved person could complain to the administrative authority at a higher level in cases of disputes with individual Government officials e.g. complaints against abuse of power. Thirdly, civil action could be taken in the courts or relevant arbitration centre in cases of personal disputes. Finally, an aggrieved person could approach Hong Kong deputies to the National People's Congress (NPC) for assistance.

16.SCA pointed out that the legal and administrative systems of the Central People's Government were different from that of the SAR Government. Under the " One Country, Two Systems " principle, the SAR Government should not intervene in the legal and administrative systems of the Central People's Government. The SAR Government therefore could only play a limited role and would when appropriate refer complaints received to the appropriate authorities in the Mainland for follow-up. In this connection, a Member suggested and SCA agreed to consider stepping up publicity on the type of assistance available to HKSAR residents in distress in the Mainland. The Chairman also suggested that the SAR Government could consider providing funding for the Hong Kong deputies to the NPC to set up offices in the Mainland to handle relevant complaints from HKSAR residents and to refer them to the NPC if appropriate. Mr KAN Fook-yee who was a local deputy to the NPC briefly explained to the meeting the manner in which complaints received from HKSAR residents were normally handled. SCA agreed to consider the feasibility of the Chairman's suggestion but reminded members that NPC was not part of the political structure in Hong Kong.Adm


17.Referring to the differential treatment between residents of HKSAR and those in China, e.g. different charging schemes for services, a Member asked whether the SAR Government would take action to ensure that HKSAR residents would receive equal treatment in the Mainland. SCA agreed to consider reflecting Members' views.Adm

18.There being no further questions from members, the meeting ended at 3:35 pm.Adm

Provisional Legislative Council Secretariat
27 October 1997