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Saturday, May 25, 2024

Elected district councils not written in Basic Law, says Erick Tsang

Elected district councils not written in Basic Law, says Erick Tsang

The Basic Law has never specified that district councils must be elected, and it is completely twisting the spirit of the law to consider district councils as a part of Hong Kong’s democratic progress, said Secretary for Constitutional and Mainland Affairs Erick Tsang Kwok-wai.
Tsang’s remarks came as a subcommittee on the reform of district councils convened the first meeting in the Legislative Council on Friday.

He noted the recent public opinions regarding the footing of district councils reflected that social sectors don’t have an accurate grasp of the Basic Law.

Tsang stressed that the Basic Law has never said district organizations must be produced by elections, and there is no specific instruction on how they should be formed.

The law articles (97 & 98) do not even use the phrase “district councils,” he noted, unlike how the Chief Executive and the legislature must be produced through elections as stated in articles 45 and 68, respectively.

That means district councils are not necessarily produced by elections, not to mention universal suffrage, Tsang continued.

He added the SAR government can choose to form district organizations, but it is not a constitutional responsibility to do so. He referred to the law and said district organizations have no political power, including legislation, taxation, and government monitoring.

Tommy Cheung Yu-yan from Liberal Party suggested changing the name to district consultation councils and raising the ceiling of election expenditure, given the expansion of each election district. Tsang then replied that authorities had given some thought to changing the name but didn’t want residents to feel distant.

Gary Chan Hak-kan from the Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong doubted how authorities could ensure appointed district councilors are doing their jobs.

Secretary for Home and Youth Affairs Alice Mak Mei-kuen said she could set up a monitoring committee and initiate an investigation against suspected misconduct in office upon request by the district councils’ president.

Meanwhile, Tik Chi-yuen from Third Side hoped authorities could save some room for people across the political spectrum to participate in the revamped district councils.

Tsang then said citizens from all backgrounds, as long as they love China and Hong Kong, are welcome to join the district councils.
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