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Motion debate on ¡§Appointing smallest number of District Council members¡¨

at the LegCo Meeting on 3rd December, 2003

Draft speech by Eric La Ka-cheung

Regarding the appointment system of the District Council, as it is associated with the principle of political reform, I would like to take this opportunity to sum up and explain my stance on this issue from three perspectives.

Firstly, I have always adopted an open attitude on the democratization of the political system of Hong Kong. Earlier on, on 24th June 1992 and 15th July 1998, there were similar debates on ¡§political reform¡¨ in this Council. I then pointed out that in 1988 when the Basic Law was being drafted, I took the lead to suggest that a gradual and orderly approach should be adopted regarding the election of LegCo and the Chief Executive, and that they should ultimately be elected by universal suffrage. This concept was finally accepted by the Basic Law drafters and have become Articles 45 and 68.

As regards the appropriate time for making this significant change, I also introduced the ¡§trigger point¡¨ concept then and proposed that a 50% voter turn-out rate should be regarded as the ¡§trigger point¡¨ for full-scale universal suffrage. However, many of my democrat colleagues found my proposal unacceptable, resulting in the present time frame for LegCo elections. Ten years later in 1998, evidence showed that the voting rate of LegCo elections had already exceeded 53%. In the latest District Council election, a record high voter turn-out rate of 44% was recorded.

As for myself, I have always been supportive of full-scale universal suffrage and my position is without doubt. In the 2000 LegCo election, I had expressed that I would stop standing for a functional constituency seat by 2008 at the latest. Having adopted such a firm attitude towards the LegCo elections, I do not see any reason why I will change my position regarding the appointed seats in the District Council.

Secondly, apart from my personal stance, I would also like to recap in sequence the two proposals for gradual and orderly reform put forward by me for the consideration of the accounting profession and the people of Hong Kong at appropriate occasions during the polarized debate on political reform. The first occasion was my article published in Hong Kong Economic Times on 24th November 1998, in which I proposed that the LegCo should be increased by 30 directly elected seats. In July this year, I suggested in the RTHK program Letter to Hong Kong (Pls refer to my article ¡§Hong Kong in Re-organization¡¨ in Hong Kong Accountant, published in August 2003) that the existing functional constituencies can be turned into a nomination process in which no more than three candidates will be elected among their members and these candidates can then hold themselves out for direct election by all the registered voters of Hong Kong. The election of the Chief Executive can also be modified in a similar manner and the candidates can be first elected by the Election Committee before moving forward to direct election.

These are my concepts developed in the past and they also indicate my position on the appointment system of the District Council now. The reason why I restated these proposals on this occasion is to prove that these ideas are not formulated in haste. These are principles that I have long held for years. I am in support of a gradual and orderly process for the appointment system of the District Council. Taking into account such considerations and principles, I think that the allocation of the appointed seats in the District Council elections this time should be in proportion to the ratio of the elected candidates who hold different political viewpoints or represent various political parties. This is the approach most in accordance with the law and responds to the voice of the people.

However, I would like to add that appointments made on a proportional basis should be reduced to zero after two or three District Council elections in a gradual and orderly manner.

The original bill submitted by my fellow colleague Dr. Yeung Sum stated that all the 1.06 million voters are unanimously for the abolition of the appointment system. Some of them may be of such an opinion as suggested by my colleagues from the Democratic Party, but I feel that others may not be. Those who cast their votes for the DBA, independent candidates, Liberal Party or HKPA may not think that the system should be abolished right now. But how should this opinion be represented? The best method, in my opinion, is to have the seats allocated according to the actual ratio of elected candidates. This allocation is not to change the results of the voting of the District Council elections. Rather, it is a solution that corresponds to and reflects the results. This proposal will therefore be a much more accurate reflection of the election results when compared with the original bill.

Thirdly, as mentioned before, I do hope the government will implement a political review as soon as possible. This is also the point which I have been emphasizing since the debate on the Policy Address in 1997. I really think that the government should carry out a review on the whole political system. The appointment system of the District Council is a supplement to the whole political reform. This review should indicate a clear direction to the people and give them a chance to express their opinions on the political system so that a comprehensive and a generally well-accepted outcome will be achieved.


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