|For years, I was perturbed by the very low voters registration
rate of the Accountancy Functional Constituency. It seemed
to indicate that the majority of accountants did not wish
to have a say in their own affairs, nor in the political
and economic environment around them.
However, the recent election changed that picture -
with 9,902 registered voters, and a voter registration
rate of 81 per cent, we are the third largest functional
constituency. And, the very respectable turnout rate
of 59 per cent on 24 May, demonstrated that accountants
are truly civic-minded and responsible voters. I am
both relieved, grateful and proud to have received such
a convincing and dignified mandate.
Political campaigning is hard work. But the intense
process of setting out my election platform and explaining
it to fellow members has helped me to focus critically
on the current issues most affecting the profession.
In addition, I received many thought-provoking and often
surprising comments on certain matters that we tended
to take for granted, such the continual existence of
the Accountancy Functional Constituency seat. Receiving
such a wide array of comments ahs definitely been a
worthwhile exercise, but it is not an end in itself.
Now, it's time for decisive and painstaking action to
make the election actually mean something to us all.
In the face of the current economic turmoil, it is
not surprising that many of us are most concerned about
the state of the Hong Kong's economy. Even before LegCo
began its current session, I was actively involved in
shaping public opinion on matters such as the possible
floatation of public corporations, (such;) acceptance
of deficit budgets in the next two years to help stimulate
the economy; regular review of GDP's growth rate; and
the streamlining of the civil service and its pay structure.
These are issues that I take very seriously, and ones
which will receive my constant and continuos attention.
In these regards, my quarterly (periodic) circular,
"Eric's Bits and Bytes" and web site will
soon provide a fuller account of all my findings and
I took look forward to receiving your input.
In this article however, I would like to introduce
a fundamental question about the Accountancy Functional
Constituency on which I plan to solicit your views.
The question in mind centres around geographically-based
direct elections. The massive 53 per cent region-wide
turnout in the recent election took everybody by surprise.
It demonstrated that Hong Kong's registered voters are
more than willing to pick their own political leaders
through geographically-based direct election.
Furthermore, several accountants mention to me that,
as a matter of principle, they would not vote in a functional
constituency. I find it interesting and thought-provoking
that over 300 voided votes were cast in our functional
constituency election, quite a few of which included
comments from members stating that they would prefer
to vote only in a geographically based direct election.
In July 1987, the HKSA conducted a survey amongst Society
members to gauge whether there was any interest in creating
a functional LegCo seat for the accountancy profession.
Ninety-nine per cent of respondents supported the proposal.
However, 73 per cent replied that they wanted direct
elections, of which (with) 40 per cent
believed that they should be introduced immediately.
The number of accountancy students who wanted direct
elections was even higher, at 50 per cent.
About a year later, as a member of the Society's Basic
Law Working Group, I wrote about the future of the political
structure on behalf of the profession. In the comprehensive
position paper submitted to the Basic Law drafters,
I wrote the following:
- "We believe that the people of Hong Kong ought
to be given universal adult suffrage as an ultimate
goal. This ought to be clearly defined in the Articles
- "Informal and civic education are being promoted
earnestly and there will be numerous elections held
regularly. Undoubtedly, civic sense will rise and
fuel the demand for a chance to exercise (equal) individual
- "The Basic Law should provide for a trigger
point to allow for full-scale elections by universal
adult suffrage in the event that not less than half
of all HKSAR eligible voters actually cast their votes,
¡K¡K The fact that a majority of voters have made the
conscious efforts to exercise their civic rights must
have marked an end to the long-held defence of the
need to protect the silent majority. It also amounts
to the same effect as a referendum in support of election
by universal adult suffrage."
To cut a long story short, and after extensive consultation,
the above points were endorsed by the accountancy profession.
These proposals were also well received by the Basic
Law drafters who subsequently amended their original
draft to include (our) first point on elections
by universal adult suffrage.
After intense public debate, the suggestion of a trigger
point was modified by Basic Law drafters, to take the
form a fixed timetable according to which the Election
Committee and Functional Constituency seats would be
gradually reduced, as well the inclusion of an overall
review date in the year 2007. Once this was agreed upon,
the HKSA supported the final version of the Basic Law.
In view of the election result, it may be argued that
the 53 per cent turnout rate of voters has exceeded
the trigger point, originally proposed by the HKSA.
By implication, one could say that it is time to eliminate
all Election Committee and Functional Constituency seats.
Bearing in mind that this matter will be reviewed in
2007, the accountancy profession needs to take a clear
stand on this issue sooner rather than later.
Furthermore, the return of Democrats to LegCo in significant
numbers is sure to resurrect the debate on the pace
of democracy. The high voter turnout will lend them
strong arguments in favour of advancing the timetable
for full-scale direct geographical elections by universal
adult suffrage. Indeed, as a first salvo, a motion debate
took place on 15 July 1998 to discuss this issue.
If the HKSA made the decision 10 years ago to implement
the trigger point concept, I think that the accountancy
profession should stand by that principle and accept
the consequential implications. However, before doing
so, I think it is important to point out the following
circumstances which have changed since then, and which
may affect accountants' views:
- Membership - HKSA numbers have risen from about
4,000 in 1988 to more than 14,000 now. Many new members
did not play a part in the original decision.
- Basic Law - the HKSA eventually accepted
the final version of the Basic Law based on
the inclusion of a fixed timetable for gradual change.
Many of us might have reservations about unstitching
the Basic Law.
- Real Experience - in the past 10 years, the Accountancy
Functional Constituency seat has proved to be a very
useful and effective political link. If the trigger
point stance is upheld, the accountancy profession
will have to give up this privileged position. On
the other hand, lawyers and doctors appear to be ready
to give up their seats at any time.
As your Functional Accountancy LegCo representative,
I feel it necessary to ask for your comments on this
matter before taking a strong stance on behalf of the
profession. As such, in order to take the matter further,
I plan to:
- Consult Council - by raising the subject with the
HKSA Council and taking into account its views on
the best way to proceed with the consultation
- Consult Society members - by carrying out quantitative
surveys for which I will seek independent professional
advice on how to ensure fair, scientific and reliable
survey results; and qualitative survey through focus
group discussions with Society members.
It takes time, patience, careful planning and above
all, your active participation to achieve a sound collective
decision. To date, we have an appallingly low response
rate to political surveys. This would render any surveys
undertaken as an unreliable basis upon which to base
such an important decision.
I hope you will again demonstrate your sense of responsibility,
as you did in the recent election, by turning out in
force to participate in this important decision-making