Legislative Council

LC Paper No. CB(2)81/99-00
(These minutes have been
seen by the Administration)

Ref : CB2/BC/16/98

Legislative Council Bills Committee on
Legislative Council (Amendment) Bill 1999

Minutes of the 9th meeting
held on Thursday, 15 April 1999 at 2:30 pm
in Conference Room A of the Legislative Council Building Members Present:

Hon Ronald ARCULLI, JP (Chairman)
Hon Cyd HO Sau-lan
Dr Hon Raymond HO Chung-tai, JP
Hon LEE Wing-tat
Hon LEE Kai-ming, JP
Hon NG Leung-sing
Hon Margaret NG
Hon CHEUNG Man-kwong
Hon CHAN Wing-chan
Hon CHAN Kam-lam
Dr Hon LEONG Che-hung, JP
Hon LEUNG Yiu-chung
Hon Gary CHENG Kai-nam
Hon SIN Chung-kai
Hon Andrew WONG Wang-fat, JP
Hon WONG Yung-kan
Hon Howard YOUNG, JP
Hon YEUNG Yiu-chung
Hon LAU Kong-wah
Hon Mrs Miriam LAU Kin-yee, JP
Hon Ambrose LAU Hon-chuen, JP
Hon Emily LAU Wai-hing, JP
Dr Hon TANG Siu-tong, JP
Hon CHOY So-yuk
Hon TAM Yiu-chung, JP

Members Absent :

Prof Hon NG Ching-fai
Hon Mrs Selina CHOW, JP
Hon MA Fung-kwok
Hon Christine LOH
Hon Bernard CHAN
Hon LAU Wong-fat, GBS, JP
Dr Hon YEUNG Sum

Public Officers Attending :

Mr Robin IP
Deputy Secretary for Constitutional Affairs

Miss Shirley YUNG
Principal Assistant Secretary for Constitutional Affairs (4)

Mr Bassanio SO
Principal Assistant Secretary for Constitutional Affairs (5)

Ms Phyllis KO
Acting Deputy Principal Government Counsel (Elections)

Clerk in Attendance :

Mrs Percy MA
Chief Assistant Secretary (2) 3

Staff in Attendance :

Mr Jimmy MA, JP
Legal Adviser

Mr Stephen LAM
Assistant Legal Adviser 4

Ms Eleanor CHOW
Senior Assistant Secretary (2) 7

I. Administration's response to points raised by the Bills Committee on 15 March 1999
(LC Paper No. CB(2) 1658/98-99(03))

Members noted that items 1 and 2 of the paper were dealt with at the last meeting. Members did not raise query on the remaining items.

II. Summary of public views received on the Bill
(LC paper No. CB(2) 1658/98-99(04))

2. The Chairman advised that the asterisk in items 12 and 13 of the paper should be deleted as the associations concerned had not appeared before the Bills Committee.

III. Administration's response to written submissions
(LC paper No. CB(2) 1658/98-99(05))

Item 1 - All LegCo seats should be directly elected

3. Members did not raise query on the item.

Item 2 - "Single-seat-single vote" system

4. Members did not raise query on the item.

Item 3 - LegCo Members to be selected/elected from voluntary workers

5. Members did not raise query on the item.

Item 4 - "No canvassing day"

6. The Chairman advised that the Legal Adviser (LA) was studying whether amendments relating to "No canvassing day", if any, should be made to the principal Ordinance or to subsidiary legislation.

Item 5 - Election expenses

7. Members did not raise query on the item.

Item 6 - Candidates undergoing legal proceedings

8. Members did not raise query on the item.

Item 7 - Delineation of FC electorates and new FCs

9. In response to Mr Howard YOUNG and the Chairman on the written submissions received by the Bills Committee on the subject, Principal Assistant Secretary for Constitutional Affairs (4) (PAS for CA(4)) said that the Administration was considering whether these organisations should be included as electors for the relevant FCs. It would seek further information from these organisations if necessary. Should the Administration agree to accede to these requests, it would move Committee Stage amendments (CSAs) to the Bill. She undertook to advise members of the outcome in due course. Adm

10. Mr Howard YOUNG asked about the criteria for determining the eligibility of electorates for FCs. PAS for CA(4) replied that the eligibility criteria for an elector of the relevant FC were set out in law. The Administration had taken into account views of relevant government departments, organisations concerned and the public in delineating FC electorates and considering the establishments of new FCs.

11. Mr Andrew Wong asked about the position of the Administration in regard to the request of the Cross Harbour Tunnel Co., Limited (CHTCL) to be retained as an elector of the Transport FC. PAS for CA(4) replied that a decision on the tender of the management contract of the cross harbour tunnel in Hung Hom would be made at the end of May 1999. Should CHTCL be awarded the contract, the Administration would move a CSA to the Bill to include it as an elector for the Transport FC.

12. Mr Andrew Wong said that if CHTCL was not engaged in other transport-related business, it would have no substantial connection with the Transport FC when it lost its franchise in August 1999. He asked whether a registered corporate elector for the Transport FC which had subsequently engaged in business unrelated to transport would be disqualified from voting at an election. He suggested that in order to remove doubt, the Administration should explicitly state in law that a corporate elector which no longer had any substantial connection with the relevant FC should be disqualified from voting at an election.

13. The Chairman said that according to section 53(1)(b), a person registered as an elector for an FC was disqualified from voting at an election if he had ceased to be a person specified in Schedule 1 to the LCO. PAS for CA(4) said that clause 36 sought to amend the section to the effect that a person was disqualified from voting at an election if he had ceased to be a person "eligible to be registered as an elector for such a constituency". The Chairman said that under the circumstances, it appeared that a registered corporate elector which no longer had substantial connection with the relevant FC should be disqualified from voting. Mr Andrew WONG considered otherwise. He said that companies which were included in the list of electorates should not be disqualified from voting, given that the law did not give specific reasons as to why they were so listed in the first place. They would be qualified to vote so long as their names were on the list of electorates.

14. PAS for CA(4) said that she would seek legal advice on Mr WONG's question and revert to members in due course. Given the wide variations in the composition and characteristics of each FC, it was difficult to set a uniform rule on substantial connection for all the FCs. As a general practice, the law required that if there was material change to the constitution of the body which would affect the eligibility criteria or voting right of members, it had to seek consent from the Secretary for Constitutional Affairs. This provision did not apply to the Transport FC because its electors were not members of an umbrella organisation. Having regard to the unique characteristics of the Transport FC, companies and organisations which were eligible to be electors were listed in the Schedule and were entitled to one vote each. Adm

15. Mrs Miriam LAU said that CHTCL was engaged in other transport-related business. Since it still had substantial connection with the Transport FC, its name should be retained in the list of electorates. PAS for CA(4) explained that since CHTCL had been included in the electorate on the basis of its franchise, it was a matter of policy that it should be removed from the list when it could no longer satisfy the criteria for inclusion in the electorate. As she had mentioned earlier, if CHTCL won the contract for managing the tunnel, consideration would be given to add its name on the list.

16. Mr LEE Kai-ming supplemented that the China Motor Bus Co., Ltd (CMB) had also been deleted from the list because it had lost its franchise. Since CMB was operating other transport-related business such as providing bus services between factories and housing estates, he asked whether it could be retained as an elector for the Transport FC. He requested the Administration to clarify the criteria adopted for the delineation of electorate for the Transport FC.

17. Mrs Miriam LAU criticised that the criteria for the delineation of electorate for the Transport FC were unfair. She pointed out that if a sector was composed of federations, the federations would each have one vote. If a sector was composed of individual associations/companies, these associations/companies would each have a vote. Under the circumstances, both representative federations with a large number of corporate members and individual associations/companies would each be entitled to one vote. In order to delineate the electorate for the Transport FC in a fair manner, she suggested to broaden the electorate base by giving votes to transport companies with business registration certificates.

18. PAS for CA(4) explained that the electorate for the Transport FC was basically franchised or licensed companies operating transport business, companies providing public transport services and bodies which were representative in the respective transport sectors. As she had pointed out at a previous meeting, Mrs LAU's proposal would result in a particular sector dominating the Transport FC.

19. Ms Emily LAU asked whether there was any mechanism to ascertain whether a registered elector was qualified to vote at an FC election. The Chairman replied that electors of FC and GC were required to exercise self-discipline, and that it was their responsibility to notify the Government if they were disqualified from voting. PAS for CA(4) said that given that there were more than 2.8 million registered electors, it would be difficult for the Administration to verify their eligibility to vote at an election. Section 53 of the LCO had set out the conditions under which a registered elector was disqualified from voting at an election. It was an offence for a person to vote at an election if he knew that he was disqualified from voting.

20. Ms Emily LAU said that it was imperative to verify the eligibility of FC electors to vote as a single vote could make a lot of difference in the outcome of FC elections, given the small electorate size of FCs. The Chairman asked Ms LAU whether she was suggesting two different verification systems for FC and GC electors. He pointed out that only a handful of FCs had a small size electorate. There were actually more than 230 000 potential FC electors.

21. PAS for CA(4) said that the present registration system of electors was transparent and had been operating effectively. Item 5 of LC Paper No. 1658/98-99(03) gave an account of the present arrangement which ran at a number of levels. The Administration considered that there were already sufficient provisions to ensure that only bodies who were truly eligible for registration as electors in the FCs were registered. Mr Andrew WONG and Mr Howard YOUNG pointed out that the registration system of FC electors was stricter than that of GC electors and that FC electors could easily monitor each other in a small size election.

22. Mr Andrew WONG asked about the action to be taken if, after the publication of the final register, the Administration had come to the knowledge that a registered FC elector had ceased to be so eligible. PAS for CA(4) replied that if it had come to the knowledge of the electoral staff at a polling station that a registered elector was disqualified from voting, they would remind the elector that he might commit an offence if he insisted on voting. She undertook to give a detailed reply to the member's question. Adm

Item 8 - Fresh Fruit Transportation Association

23. Members noted the reply.

Item 9 - Voting in FC

24. Ms Emily LAU asked about the procedure for selecting an authorised representative for the purpose of casting a vote on behalf of a corporate elector for an FC. DS for CA replied that given that the nature and mode of operation of each corporate elector were different, it was not appropriate nor possible to specify in law how a corporate elector should select its authorised representative or how he should cast his vote. As the issue was wholly an internal matter for individual corporate electors, the Administration did not have any information as to the method adopted by corporate electors of the Transport FC to decide how to cast their votes.

25. The Chairman envisaged that the method for selecting an authorised representative was governed by the constitution of an association; and in the case of companies, to be decided by the board of directors and shareholders. He recalled that when the subject was discussed in 1994, it had been suggested that a corporate elector should decide the vote to be cast by its authorised representative by way of a resolution. However, it was reckoned that the decision of a corporate elector was non-binding on the authorised representative. Mr CHEUNG Man-kwong said that given that an authorised representative was not required by law to adhere to the decision of a corporate elector in voting, there was virtually no control on how he would cast his vote at an election. Mr Andrew WONG pointed out that an authorised representative should not cast his vote under duress.

26. DS for CA said that a person had to satisfy certain criteria to become an authorised representative of a corporate elector. The law also required that an application for registering the authorised representative had to be made to the Electoral Registration Office by a corporate elector. The Chairman supplemented that a corporate elector might from time to time replace its authorised representative and the replacement would not have effect until it was registered by the Electoral Registration Officer.

IV. Clause by clause examination of the Bill

Clause 13 (new section 20F) - Legal FC

27. Miss Margaret NG recalled that judges were eligible electors for the Legal FC and the Community, Social and Personal Services FC in the 1991 and 1995 LegCo elections respectively. Noting that they were no longer included as any FC electors in the 2000 LegCo election, she requested for an explanation. PAS for CA(4) responded that the Bill followed the practice in the 1998 LegCo election. She would revert to members with more information in writing. Adm

28. Miss Margaret NG enquired about the size of electorates of the Legal FC, pointing out that some members of the legal profession were not permanent residents and therefore were not eligible to vote. PAS for CA(4) said that when estimating the potential size of electorates of FCs, the Administration would base on the membership figure provided by the relevant associations and would discount factors such as overlapping of membership across the constituent bodies in an FC. In response to members, the Administration undertook to provide information on (a) a breakdown of the number of registered electors for each FC in the 1998 LegCo election; (b) an estimate of electorate size of each FC; and (c) the discounting factor, if any, used in arriving at the figures in (b). Adm

Clause 13 (new section 20 H) - Medical FC

29. Ms Emily LAU asked why Chinese medicine practitioners had not be included as electors for the Medical FC. Dr LEONG Che-hung said that the Medical FC was composed of registered medical practitioners and dentists. Since Chinese medicine practitioners would have a legal status after the passage of the Chinese Medicine Bill which provided for, inter alia, registration of Chinese medicine practitioners, he would move a CSA to create a new FC for Chinese medicine practitioners if the Administration declined to do so. He added that the Administration had the responsibility to include Chinese medicine practitioners as constituents of FCs in the Bill, in anticipation of the enactment of the Chinese Medicine Bill. Miss Margaret NG supported Dr LEONG's view.

30. Ms Emily LAU disagreed that the medical profession should be given two seats in the LegCo. Dr LEONG responded that whether a new FC should be created was a matter for the Council to decide.

31. DS for CA responded that since the Chinese Medicine Bill had yet to be passed and Chinese medicine practitioners had yet to be registered, the Administration did not agree to include them as electors for the Medical FC for the time being or to establish a new FC for traditional Chinese medicine.

Clause 13 (new section 20I) - Health Services


32. Mr Howard YOUNG recalled that chiropractors had boycotted the 1995 LegCo election because they were not satisfied to be placed under the Health Services FC and not the Medical FC. He asked whether the Administration would reconsider their request for inclusion as electors in the Medical FC. In response, DS for CA said that in the 1998 LegCo election, chiropractors had not raised any objection to the delineation nor had they requested to be transferred to the Medical FC. The Administration was of the view that they should remain in the Health Services FC in the 2000 LegCo election.

33. Dr LEONG Che-hung informed members that although the Chiropractors Registration Ordinance (Cap. 428) was enacted in 1993, registration of chiropractors had yet to commence pending the preparation of the code of practice for the profession. The chiropractors had yet to reach a consensus on the code and the Panel on Health Services was currently following up the matter.

34. In response to the Chairman, PAS for CA(4) said that since it was not sure whether chiropractors would have been registered at the time of the 2000 LegCo election, both registered chiropractors and members of the Hong Kong Chiropractors Association had been included as electors for the Health Services FC under new section 20(I)(a) and (b).

Veterinary surgeons

35. Dr LEONG Che-hung said that given that veterinary surgeons were registered professionals, they should be eligible to vote in FC election. Ms Emily LAU opined that veterinary surgeons should be placed under the Medical FC. Dr LEONG said that since the Veterinary Surgeons Registration Ordinance (Cap. 529) was introduced by the Economic Services Bureau, it could be argued that veterinary surgeons should be included in the Agriculture and Fisheries FC. Mr LEE Wing-tat asked whether the relationship between a policy bureau with a profession would be taken into consideration in delineating the electorate for an FC. DS for CA said that FCs were a result of the development of representative government in Hong Kong. The aim of establishing FCs was to ensure that the economic and professional sectors which covered a sufficiently large and important sector of the community were represented in the legislature. He undertook to consider whether veterinary surgeons should be included as electors for any of the FCs. Adm

Clause 13 (new section 20 M) - Social Welfare FC

36. Members noted that Mr Eric LI had given notice to move an amendment to confine the electorate for the Social Welfare FC to social workers registered under the Social Workers Registration Ordinance (Cap. 506).

Clause 13 (new section 20N) - Real Estate and Construction FC

37. Members noted that the Hong Kong Institute of Real Estate Administration had sent in a submission (LC paper No. CB(2) 1676/98-99(01)) requesting to be included as an elector for the Real Estate and Construction FC. Members also noted that many of its members were professionals. The Administration undertook to respond to this and other submissions at a future meeting. Adm

Clause 13 (new section 20T and 20U) - Finance FC and Financial Services FC

38. The Chairman asked whether the composition of the Finance FC and the Financial Services FC would be affected as a result of the proposals to simplify the current three-tier structure of authorised institutions (licensed banks, restricted licence banks and deposit-taking companies) into two tiers and to reform the securities and the futures markets. DS for CA said that he would gather more information and respond in writing. Adm

Clause 13 (new section 20ZB) - District Council FC

39. In response to the Chairman, PAS for CA(4) said that given the large electorate size of the proposed District Council FC, a person who was eligible to be registered as an elector for both the District Council FC and another FC was free to register as an elector for either FC. Responding to Ms Emily LAU, PAS for CA(4) said that according to section 25(3) of LCO, a person who would be eligible to be registered as an elector for the Heung Yee Kuk, Transport, Insurance, or Agriculture and Fisheries FCs, and other FCs would be registered only for one of the aforementioned FCs and not for that other FC. In response to a question by the Chairman, PAS for CA(4) said that the Finance FC and the Insurance FC had 360 and 210 potential electors respectively.

40. Mr Andrew WONG asked why the establishment of FCs was not provided for in the Schedule to the LCO. DS for CA explained that for the sake of clarity, the basic principles governing eligibility of electors for each FC were prescribed in the main text of the LCO, and that the detailed list of the names of electors was set out in separate schedules to the LCO. LA said that under the circumstances, amendments to elector eligibility and list of electorates, if any, had to be made by way of an amendment bill and a resolution respectively.

    (Post-meeting note : The Administration's response to concerns raised by the Bills Committee at this meeting was circulated to members vide LC Paper No. CB(2) 1854/98-99(02) on 5 May 1999.)

V. Date of next meetings

41. Members agreed that the next two meetings would be held on 22 April 1999 at 8:30 am and on 27 April 1999 at 10:45 am.

42. The meeting ended at 4:30 pm.

Legislative Council Secretariat
11 October 1999