5 January 1998

Democratic Party Condemns Functional Constituency Registration

Today Democratic Party Chairman Martin Lee blasted the Tung government's voter registration exercise which ends on January 16 -- but which has so far produced a number of constituencies with barely a dozen eligible voters. In 1995 the functional constituency electorate was 2.7 million. But the post-handover government slashed the electorate by 2.5 million and re-installed "corporate" voting. As a result, in the May 1998 elections, many of the 30 functional constituencies will have only several eligible hundred voters, with constituencies containing 43, 12 or even 7 voters. By contrast, each of the 20 democratically elected seats will have over 200,000 voters.

Martin Lee noted that these appalling voter registration results are not an accident or a surprise: they are the entirely predictable outcome of an electoral law passed by an appointed legislature and deliberately designed to ensure the vast majority of seats will be controlled by Beijing's supporters.

Mr. Lee commented:

"This truly gives new meaning to the term 'rotten boroughs.' Mr. Tung promised that Hong Kong would have 'a more democratic form of government' after the handover. How does he reconcile his pledge with the farcical electoral arrangements he has put in place?

We have long known that the smaller the constituency, the easier it is for Beijing to control the result. Thus the results of these elections are a foregone conclusion: the newly narrowed functional constituencies are specifically designed by the government to exclude the public and anoint pro-Beijing candidates. Who can blame the Hong Kong public for not lining up to register for elections the results of which are pre-ordained?

Furthermore, these tiny constituencies are an open invitation to corrupt practices: in the 1991 legislative elections, Gilbert Leung, a candidate who 'won' in the smallest constituency (with 36 voters) bought the last few votes, was convicted and served two years in prison. At this rate, the May elections are set to make Hong Kong an international laughingstock.

In light of these dismal results, we call on the government to extend the voter registration period -- though it may be that some voters have simply decided there is no point in casting a vote. In the end, the only solution to this problem is the total abolition of all functional constituency seats and the institution of full democratic elections for the entire legislature."

Background news articles follow:

Saturday January 3 1998

Million still to register for Legco elections

Eligible voters were urged to register yesterday as
the Government's $60 million election promotion
appeared to be turning into a farce.
With the registration deadline just two weeks away,
an estimated one million eligible voters have still to
sign on. Some functional constituencies have just a
handful of electors so far.
One "scary" case, said Electoral Affairs
Commission chairman Mr Justice Woo Kwok-hing,
was the labour functional constituency. Just 36
representatives have registered to return three
In the Agriculture and Fisheries seat, 159 invitation
letters were sent out but only seven voters have
registered and one application is still being
The poorest response is in functional seats
consisting of corporate bodies, each of which are
required to name an authorised person anew to cast
their ballots.
Things are only a little better in the geographical poll
Since the start of registration on December 6, just
420,000 forms have been received, with 50 per
cent from existing voters updating their information.
About 210,000 new voters have been added to the
2.54 million on the electoral roll from 1995. But the
net increase is only 140,000 once 30,000
non-permanent residents and 40,000 people who
died after the last election are removed.
A disappointed Mr Justice Woo said the
Government might have to consider compulsory
registration for the next election.
But he denied that the low registration rate had
anything to do with changes in the electoral system
which had resulted in the shrinking of the franchise.
Officials will now target specific groups, such as
university students and youth centre visitors, in the
remaining two weeks of registration.
A second letter will also be sent to eligible
functional voters, and briefings will be offered to
associations and chambers of commerce on the
registration procedure.
Saturday January 3 1998
South China Morning Post EDITORIAL
Narrowing circles
With less than a fortnight left until the deadline for
voter registration, some functional constituencies
are dangerously close to making history - but for all
the wrong reasons. Some even threaten to make
the much-criticised National People's Congress
elections seem like a paragon of democracy by
In the agriculture and fisheries constituency, only
seven voters had been registered as of December
30, with an eighth application still being processed.
That is proportionately lower than in the NPC poll,
when 36 delegates were returned by 424 electors -
an average of one for each 12 members of the
selection panel.
In other seats, the situation is almost as bad. For
the transport seat, 43 voters have been registered
so far, and in the insurance constituency 71. These
are among the nine new seats created to replace
those which had a total electorate of 2.7 million in
Although more voters may come forward before
the February 16 deadline, such low numbers
threaten to cast a shadow over the whole electoral
process. Nor does it seem likely that the
Government will be able to balance this by
achieving its stated goal of a vast increase in the
number of voters in the geographical constituencies.
Despite a $60 million campaign, just 200,000 new
voters have been registered so far at an average
cost of $300.
Such expenses are not to be begrudged. It is
important that participation in the election is as great
as possible. But it must be asked whether the level
of interest reflects disillusion with the way the
electoral process has been shaped for political ends.
Monday January 5 1998
Call for extra time on voter registration drive
Politicians last night called on the Government to
extend the deadline for voter registration in view of
the poor response to May's functional polls.
Cheung Man-kwong, chairman of the Hong Kong
Professional Teachers' Union and an ousted
Democratic Party legislator, said the January 16
deadline should be extended for another two weeks
to give eligible voters more time to register.
"The voters' registration forms for the teaching
functional constituency have been sent to the
respective schools of all teachers in Hong Kong,"
Mr Cheung said.
"However, teachers were unable to register as they
were all out for Christmas and New Year holidays
between December 20 and January 4.
"This virtually cut the one-month registration period
to two weeks."
Tsang Yok-sing, provisional legislator and chairman
of the Democratic Alliance for the Betterment of
Hong Kong, agreed that the registration period for
the Legislative Council election should be extended.
"Many people complained to us about not knowing
whether they had to register or what they should do
to register," he said.
Mr Tsang also criticised the information mailed to
voters, saying it was confusing.
"They sent me a notice informing me that I belong
to the teaching functional constituency but, as a
provisional legislator, I am automatically a member
of the Election Committee. This is very confusing,"
he said.
Despite the pleas, both Mr Cheung and ousted
unionist legislator Lee Cheuk-yan doubted if an
extension would significantly boost registration.
"As functional polls are small-circle elections, the
results are more or less predictable. It reduces
voters' desire to vote," Mr Lee said.
Their comments came as the Government issued a
reminder to eligible voters to register before the

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