|Should LegCo continue to have legislators representing
functional constituencies beyond 207? Eric Li comments
on the findings of an important survey recently sent to
A professionally conducted independent survey should
speak for itself. This is why I commissioned the Hong
Kong Polytechnic University's Centre for Social Policy
Studies to design the questionnaire which was sent to
you all last August and to collect, collate and analyse
the data and interpret the results, some of which appear
If you agree with the results, please support them
by letting me know and if you disagree with the results,
you should also let me know why. Irrespective of whether
we like it or not, I hope the survey will, most importantly
of all, prompt you to speak out on this critically important
issue. Remember, your views will be imperative when
it comes to making the final decision.
I was initially disappointed that only 586 of you returned
the questionnaire. But the 4 % response rate constitutes
a well-formed representative population and we have,
therefore, a statistically acceptable sample. However,
if more of you were to speak out, I would obviously
have a more dependable collective view. As such, I will
place the questionnaire on my website until the end
of May 2000 in the hope of yielding a more meaningful
update by then.
I spoke to the press on January 2000 immediately after
the results were handed to me and urged the public not
to make any unsafe assumptions that functional constituency
electorates will automatically guard their special political
privileges or that they will put their sectoral interests
above all else.
I am of the opinion that other functional constituencies
should conduct similar surveys to shed more light on
the future of Hong Kong's political reform.
I also promise to seek your views when there are more
concrete proposals emerging from the Government's consultation
exercise to be conducted in due course.
The matter of political reform in now a hot topic of
debate. We are already one step ahead of other functional
constituencies in preparation for this debate. With
your help and mandate, I hope I will be able to speak
with great confidence when the post-2007 political reform
begins to unwind itself in the years to come.
An Independent Survey
According to the Basic Law, the third Legislative Council
(LegCo) election will be held in 2004. All 60 LegCo
members are to be returned either by functional constituency
election (30 seats) or by geographical constituency
elections (30 seats). The Basic Law however, is open
in regard to arrangements beyond 2007. Amendments, if
any, in the methods by which the future legislature
it to be formed, would come in the form of an endorsement
of a two-thirds majority of LegCo and the consent of
the Chief Executive prior to 2007.
The aim of this study has been to gauge the opinions
of professional accountants in Hong Kong on whether
changes should be made to the ways in which LegCo is
constituted in 2004 and in 2006.
Regarding LegCo's composition from 2004 to 2007, the
majority (55.7%) of respondents were inclined to accept
the arrangements set out in the Basic Law. Slightly
less than half (44.3%) disagreed with 'the arrangement
that 20 seats will be returned by the functional constituency
election to LegCo in 2004' (see Table 1).
More respondents (45.1% compared to 36.8%) were in
favour of abolishing functional constituency elections
in 2007 than in keeping them (see Table 2).
On the whole however, respondents were positive about
elections through geographical constituencies. Many
(72.4%) disagreed that these elections were 'a waste
of social resources'. More than half (57.5%) rejected
the suggestion that these elections induced social conflict.
However, as many as two-thirds (64.0%) of respondents
agreed that geographical constituency elections increased
the public mandate of the legislature and close to half
(46.8%) accepted that direct elections through geographical
constituencies meant 'government by the people'.
As for elections through functional constituencies,
respondents' views were less straightforward. On the
whole, they were slightly more inclined (34.2% compared
to 26.5%) to take the view that these elections are
'above politics', that for members returned by these
elections the 'views of constituents are decisive' (45.7%
compared to 14.6%) and that this type of election is
'good for economic prosperity' (45.1% compared to 24.6%).
Just for the Star Factor?
Notwithstanding these positive views, slightly more
respondents were inclined to characterise these elections
as 'celebrity shows' (33.7% compared to 31.4$) and believed
that, in these elections, 'sectoral interests dominate'
(57.7% compared to 10.7%) (see Table 3).
In other words, respondents' views on functional constituency
elections were, on the whole, more qualified. As such,
respondents' attitudes towards these two types of election
can be characterised as moderate and balanced. These
was no overwhelming endorsement or categorical rejection
of either type. On balance, however, there appeared
to be a somewhat stronger inclination in support of
elections through geographical constituencies than of
elections through functional constituencies.
There is no surprise therefore than more respondents
were in favour of abolishing functional constituency
elections beyond 2007.
What is also very revealing is that, notwithstanding
this preference, many more respondents were in favour
of (61.6%), rather than against (23.4%), a 'gradual'
approach to implementing electoral reforms with the
view to bringing about full-scale direct elections (see
Elections are without doubt the central institution
of democratic representative governments. Holding free
and fair elections periodically not only helps to translate
consent of the governed into governmental authority,
which is an essential characteristic of all modern democracies,
but also ensures that elected officials are accountable
to the people at prescribed intervals. The design of
election systems is paramount in the process of democratic
transition. At present, three different electoral constituencies
are used to elect members to LegCo. These included Geographical
Constituencies, Functional Constituencies and the Election
The notion of election embodies two key values: equality
and popular participation. The overwhelming majority
of respondents endorse these values. Nearly all (95%)
agreed that 'all elections must be governed by the standard
of popular participation' (see Table 5).
So were respondents more in favour of direct elections?
There were some who stated their position bluntly, such
as: 'We want full-scale direct elections and the functional
constituency election should be abolished as soon as
possible.' Others pointed to fairness, representation
and public mandate as key values underpinning direct
elections. There were also those who lashed out at functional
constituency elections, describing them as 'small-circle
elections', 'not representative' and 'subject to manipulation'.
They would like to see these 'unfair' and 'undemocratic'
elections replaced by a system of 'one person, one vote'.
Moving to respondents who defended Functional Constituency
(FC) elections, many pointed to 'professional knowledge'
and the 'expertise' of FC representatives as being resources
which would be of value to Hong Kong's economic prosperity
and stability. This view was widely shared. Many respondents
also stated their disappointment with the performance
of directly elected Legislative Councilors who, in their
view, lacked either vision or mass appeal. They believed
that the presence of FC members in the Legislative Council
could 'serve a check-and-balance function against members
directly elected through geographical constituencies
There was no surprise, therefore, that more than half
of the respondents look the view that 'electoral reforms
in terms of full-scale direct election must be gradual'.
Accountants Want Full-Scale Elections
The professional accountants in Hong Kong who answered
the survey showed themselves to be a group of liberal
and civic-conscious professionals who do not fail to
exercise their political rights.
Their attitudes and views of the two electoral systems
(elections through geographical constituencies and elections
through functional constituencies) can in general be
described as moderate and balanced. There was no overwhelming
endorsement or categorical rejection of either type
They were on the whole more positive about geographical
constituency elections than about functional constituency
Their attitudes on electoral reforms were on the whole
liberal, but considered. The majority of them would
rather not upset arrangements already prescribed by
the Basic Law for 2004-2007. They were more ready for
changes beyond 2007, but would advise following a gradual
approach to implementing reforms eventuating in full-scale
This survey covered 586 professional accountants who
are young to middle-aged, male and local practitioners
working in the private sector (see Table 6). Respondents
were mainly aged between 30 and 39 (51.6%). The second
largest group sampled (32.8%) was aged 40 and above
and the smallest group comprised those aged 29 or below.
This profile compares reasonably well with the HKSA's
The vast majority are eligible voters both in the geographical
constituency elections (91.1%) and in the functional
constituency elections (84.3%). Many of them exercised
their rights by casting votes in the 1998 LegCo election.
Of the eligible voters, only a small fraction gave up