Legislative Council Meeting Government Bill consideration by committee of the whole Council – Improving Electoral System (Consolidated Amendments) Bill 2021

Improving Electoral System (Consolidated Amendments) Bill 2021

MR CHAN CHUN-YING (in Cantonese):

Chairman, in this session, I would like to express my views on the amendments proposed by the Government. According to the original provisions of the Improving Electoral System (Consolidated Amendments) Bill 2021 (“the Bill”), the Candidate Eligibility Review Committee (“CERC”) shall consist of the chairperson and two to four principal officials appointed by the Central Authorities. After listening to our views, the SAR Government has proposed amendments to increase the maximum number of members in CERC from five to eight, and to provide that the Chief Executive shall, in addition to the chairperson and two to four official members, appoint one to three non-official members. Just now many Honourable colleagues already mentioned this. I believe that expansion of the composition of CERC to include patriotic, independent and apolitical members of the community will certainly further enhance the credibility of CERC. There should be no objection to this.

Another amendment proposed by the Government is to amend section 9A of the Chief Executive Election Ordinance to expressly provide in local legislation the requirement for the SAR Government to report the composition of CERC to the Central People’s Government for the record. Given that there will be additional members in CERC who are not officials appointed by the Central Authorities, reporting to the Central Government for the record can accentuate the constitutional status of CERC and the important functions it undertakes in the candidate eligibility review system. For this reason, I regard this amendment as a logical arrangement.

The newly amended Annexes I and II to Basic Law provide that CERC shall be responsible for reviewing and confirming the eligibility of candidates for Election Committee members, for the office of Chief Executive and for Members of the Legislative Council. No legal proceedings may be instituted in respect of a decision made by CERC on the eligibility of the aforesaid three types of candidates pursuant to the opinion of the Committee for Safeguarding National Security of HKSAR.

Originally, the Government considered that the provisions in the Basic Law were already very clear and had legal effect at the constitutional level. For this reason, the original Bill did not directly cite the words in Annexes I and II to the Basic Law concerning the stipulation that no legal proceedings may be instituted in respect of a decision made by CERC. However, in the end, in order to avoid unnecessary doubts, the Government accepted Members’ advice and proposed amendments to add section 9B in the Chief Executive Election Ordinance and section 3B in the Legislative Council Ordinance to specify that no legal proceedings may be instituted in respect of a decision made by CERC.

Chairman, in the past, if any candidate of the “mutual destruction camp” was disqualified from standing for election, it would definitely cause a series of lawsuits, such as judicial review. Very often, the purpose was merely to draw public attention. However, the endless lawsuits would obviously waste a large amount of social resources. This amendment will make it clear that the decision of CERC is final and not subject to dispute.

During the scrutiny of the Bill, 38 Legislative Council Members, includingme, considered that the relevant arrangement for the termination of the election proceedings for geographical constituencies (“GCs”) and functional constituencies (“FCs”) would give rise to loopholes which could easily be exploited by people with ulterior motives to interfere with and sabotage the elections. We thus signed a joint letter to the Government to put forward our request for amending the relevant provisions. Upon receipt of the joint letter forwarded by the Bills Committee, the Government has, in response to Members’ concern, amended the relevant provisions to provide that if a validly nominated candidate in a GC or FC has died or is disqualified from being nominated as a candidate after the close of nominations but before the polling day of the election, the relevant proceedings would not be terminated. I believe this amendment can prevent people who are not sincere in standing for election from exploiting the loopholes in law to create confusion in the election process, thereby causing injustice to other candidates. It can also prevent wastage of public services and ensure that elections can be conducted smoothly.

Moreover, the Bill did not specify how corporate voters and corporate electors should appoint an authorized representative. It only required the authorized representative to have a substantial connection with the body concerned. For this reason, the 38 Members also jointly proposed that the Government explicitly require the authorized representative to be appointed by the governing authority of the corporate elector or voter. The Administration readily accepted our good advice. Through the amendment, it has made clear the arrangement for the appointment of authorized representatives, which should be able to avoid any misunderstanding or dispute in this regard in the future.

Chairman, the 369 amendments to the Bill proposed by the Government to the Bills Committee are mostly improved provisions incorporating Members’ views after discussion in the Bills Committee. Hence, I will support all of them.

I so submit. Thank you, Chairman.