28 November 1997
Democratic Party Condemns Major Election Spending Hike
Democratic Party Chairman Martin Lee today condemned huge proposed election
spending increases as turning Hong Kong into a "tycoon-ocracy"
-- where only the very wealthy could afford to stand for election. Submitted
to the Beijing-appointed Provisional Legislature on November 24, the latest
change increases electoral spending limits by 143 percent, greatly disadvantaging
pro-democracy candidates who traditionally have significant difficulties
The new rules will allow groups contesting geographical constituencies
to spend HK$500,000 per seat in the May 1998 elections. This means that
an individual or party can spend up to $2.5 million in five-seat constituencies
(New Territories East and West), $2 million in the four-seat constituency
of Hong Kong Island and $1.5 million in three-seat constituencies (Kowloon
East and West). The spending limit per seat in the 1995 legislative elections
was capped at $200,000 -- less than half of therevised amount. Adjusting
for inflation, the Democratic Party had recommended an increase to $240,000
per seat. The raised expense ceilings clearly threaten the political prospects
of the most popular political parties and individuals who rely principally
on funds raised from citizens. The Democratic Party -- fielding 20 candidates
for all 20 democratically elected seats -- would thus have to spend $10
million in the May 1998 elections to compete effectively with wealthy opponents.
The spending hike further undermines the credibility of Hong Kong's
first elections since the handover, which have already been marred by the
restriction of the number of democratic seats to 20 of 60 and by electoral
laws which dramatically reduced the franchise. Martin Lee said he intended
to raise the issue of unfair election spending changes with Chief Executive
C.H. Tung at their next meeting in early December.
Martin Lee commented:
"These new changes are totally unjustified and are clearly intended
to further handicap the Democratic Party and our allies. It will not be
possible for the democrats to spend such large amounts of money, and our
candidates will naturally suffer.
Hong Kong's economic elites simply do not need any further advantages
in these elections. Rather than encouraging money politics, the government
should concentrate on getting information to the public through sponsored
debates and free radio and television airtime -- thus ensuring a more level
playing-field and democratic electoral process."