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
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
- LINDA CHOY
- 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
- ANGELA LI and HELEN LUK
- 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