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District administration shake-up proposal gets thumbs-up

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District administration shake-up proposal gets thumbs-up

By Junius Ho and Kacee Ting Wong

To ensure that district administration will be in conformity with the twin principles of an “executive-led administration” and “patriots administering Hong Kong”, Hong Kong Chief Executive John Lee Ka-chiu has recently announced a shake-up of district councils. In the following discussion, we provide a historical lens for examining the rationale behind the overhaul of district administration.

In his first address to the Legislative Council, then-governor Chris Patten unveiled his controversial reform plans that aimed at strengthening the power base of the pro-democracy forces in Hong Kong in the second half of the transitional period. He proposed that all district board members be elected and that they make up the electoral college that would choose the Legislative Councilors (Mark Roberti, The Fall of Hong Kong (NY: John Wiley & Sons, Inc, 1996), p 295). In 1994, all appointed seats were swept away to be replaced by directly elected members. It hardly needs reminding that Patten’s political reform was a further attempt to strengthen the power base of the pro-democracy forces in the city.

In the first two decades following the handover, the pro-establishment camp usually scored better results than the pro-democracy camp in the district council elections, and the district-level balance of power was tilted in their favor. Instead of focusing on district work, some district councilors of both camps either regarded their respective district councils as a steppingstone to help catapult them into the Legislative Council or as a convenient platform to expand the power base of their respective political parties. Not surprisingly, some pro-democracy forces succeeded in building their power bases at the district level by populist tactics. And thus district councils became the battleground of the two camps. Most disappointing is the attempt by the current-term district councils to politicize district administration following a landslide victory of the opposition camp in the 2019 poll.

In the second half of 2019, Hong Kong was at a crisis point on multiple fronts. In addition to the violent confrontations between the Police Force and rioters at the street level, the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region government was also threatened by the emergence of radical opposition forces at the district level. In November 2019, the opposition camp secured no fewer than 388 seats of the 452 spots available on the city’s 18 district councils under a “single seat and single vote” system. Some of the newly elected councilors paid scant attention to district work. Nor did they have any knowledge of community affairs. Some even supported the independence of Hong Kong and opposed the National Security Law for Hong Kong. The fog of rebellious impulse was hanging over various district councils.

Muddling from one dreadful miscalculation to another, some opposition-camp district councilors tried to use the district councils as a Trojan horse to destabilize the HKSAR government. For example, the Central and Western District Council passed several politically motivated motions in 2020 to embarrass and discredit some government departments. One of the motions was the code on the police’s access to their conference room.

Finally, the “primary election” held in July 2020 brought the subversive plans of the opposition camp onto the public radar. Some district councilors, including Tat Cheng Tat-hung and Shum Tsz-kit, were active participants in the primary election. Some 47 defendants have been charged with conspiracy to commit subversion for organizing the “primary election”. During the trial, prosecutors alleged that these defendants plotted to turn the Legislative Council into a lethal constitutional weapon against Beijing.

Some district councilors of the opposition camps were authors of their own misfortune when they refused to take the oath of office pledging allegiance to the city and swearing to uphold the Basic Law. One of their worries was that the secretary for justice could initiate legal action if an individual was later deemed to have violated an oath. In fact, two-thirds of those elected in the 2019 poll had been disqualified or resigned over legal concerns in the past two years.

With the above background in mind, we strongly support Lee’s proposal to maintain political stability at the district level by de-politicizing the district councils. It is worthy of note that Article 97 of the Basic Law stipulates that district organizations are not organs of political power. They are essentially consultative bodies. Although the Anglo-Saxon version of competitive elections has been implanted in the subconsciousness of some young people in the city, we should respect the original designs of the drafters of the Basic Law. Moreover, elections do not play a role in the formation of many consultative bodies in Hong Kong. Some of these unelected bodies, such as the Housing Authority and the Urban Renewal Authority, have substantial administrative powers.

Connected to de-politicization is the pressing need to adhere to the principle of “patriots administering Hong Kong” in order to safeguard national security. According to Lee, only one-fifth of the 452 seats will be determined by direct votes. The remainder will be appointed by district officers or picked by committees packed with hundreds of pro-establishment figures. The appointment system and indirect district council elections will ensure that the government could tie up all the loose national security ends in our two-tier political structure. In late December 2021, the Legislative Council was successfully revamped to ensure that seats were occupied only by patriots.

We also see a strong case for introducing the appointment system in district administration. Based on the experiences of many district councilors, we suggest that more professionals should be appointed by district officers to help deliver good governance to their respective districts. To cite an example, owner’s corporations (OCs) of many large residential estates have faced great difficulties managing their estates. District councilors with a legal background can provide valuable advice for OCs and owners to resolve their disputes over Deed of Mutual Covenant and other legal matters.

Guided and constrained by their respective Codes of Conduct, these appointed members must act ethically to uphold their independent views within the realm of their professional knowledge. Nor will they support policies based primarily on local interests. In the past, the not-in-my-backyard phenomenon was popular in many district councils. We do hope that appointed professionals and indirectly elected district councilors will represent wider and more-diverse interests of the community.

Lee set out three principles for the future district councils, which would oblige them to uphold national security, fully implement the goals of “patriots administering Hong Kong”, and fully reflect the administrative-led principle. We give Lee’s proposals a thumbs-up because these reforms could deliver good governance and meet the needs of the city. Lee also puts things right.

Junius Ho Kwan-yiu is a Legislative Council member and a solicitor.
Kacee Ting Wong is a barrister, a part-time researcher of Shenzhen University Hong Kong and the Macao Basic Law Research Center, and chairman of Chinese Dream Think Tank.

The views do not necessarily reflect those of China Daily.

This article is reproduced by Kwun Media with the consent of China Daily.

https://www.chinadailyhk.com/article/a/328687

中國夢智庫|「新特首」帶來「新區選」

為確保特區朝着良政善治的道路發展,特首李生早前宣佈改組區議會以確保區議會管理架構符合「行政主導」與「愛國者治港」雙標。筆者撰文,希望透過歷史視角,嘗試為大家解釋一下區議會改革背後的基本原理。

話說,在當時的立法局首次致辭期間,彭定康公佈極富爭議性的議會改革計劃,目地在於加強1997回歸過渡後期特區民主力量的權力基礎。他建議,通過直接選舉產生所有區議會成員,由當選區議員們組成選舉人團(Electoral College)選舉立法會議員(註1)。1994年,所有區議會委任議席全部被取消,由直接選舉產生的成員取代(註2)。毋庸諱言,因為彭定康的成功嘗試,改革了當時的議會格局,進一步加強特區民主力量的權力基礎。

在「後回歸時代」的頭二十年,建制派陣營通常比民主派陣營在區議會選舉中取得更好佳績,區議會層面權力平衡向有利於建制派陣營的方向傾斜。但是,兩個陣營的部分區議員非但沒有專注於地區工作,而是將區議會視為推動自己進入立法會的墊腳板,或將區議會視為擴大各自政黨權力基礎的便捷平台。誠然,一些民主力量通過民粹主義策略成功在地區級區議會站穩腳跟,建立了權力基礎。因此,區議會成為兩個陣營的爭奪權力「戰場」。最令人沮喪的是民主派陣營在2019年區議會選舉取得壓倒性勝利後,2019-2023年度,區議會前期出現嚴重政治化現象。

在2019年區議會選舉後的上半年,特區政府承受了來自多個方面的危機挑戰。防暴警員無奈地與暴徒上演街頭暴力對抗外,特區政府官員也受到區議會激進反對派勢力的正面威脅。2019年11月,反對派陣營在「單議席單票制」(Single-seat, Single-vote System)(註3)制度下獲得18區(共452個)區議員席位中不少於388席。一些當時的新當選區議員對社區事務是壓根的一曉不通,甚少關注地區工作也不足為奇。有些區議員甚至支持「港獨」、反對《港版國安法》立法。全港大多數區議會選區的上空都瀰漫着一層厚重的叛逆衝動陰霾。

錯不悔改、死不回頭。一些反對派陣營區議員試圖利用區議會作為特洛伊木馬來破壞特區政府權力的穩定。舉例說明,中西區區議會在2020年通過多項極富政治色彩的議案,其中一項動議說什麼要列席會議的警官進入會議室時需遵守若干匪夷所思的規矩。目標很明確,這就是要製作尷尬場景、詆毀政府官員。
最後,2020年7月舉行的「立法會初選」將反對派陣營的顛覆計劃帶入特區老百姓的眼簾中。部分區議員[包括鄭達鴻(註4)與沈子傑(註5)]積极參與初選。現共47名人士因籌辦或/與參加「立法會初選」而被控《串謀顛覆國家政權罪》。大家注意,在審判期間,主控官(副刑事檢控專員萬德豪、周天行)指控眾被告人密謀將立法會變成反對北京的致命憲政武器(註6)。

自作自虐。一些反對派陣營的當選區議員拒絕宣誓效忠特區與維護《基本法》。他(她)們擔憂如宣誓後可能有機會被裁定不忠誠,將會違反誓言,律政司司長就會跟進,啟動法律訴訟。事實上,在過去兩年中,2019年區議會選舉勝選的三分之二區議員們因觸犯這樣那樣的法律而被取消資格或自動辭職。

基於上述背景,筆者全力支持特首李生的建議,即:「… 確保區議會是非政權性區域諮詢組織;… 要『去政治化』…」。這樣能夠確保管治穩定。大家注意,《基本法》第九十七條規定,地區組織(如: 區議會)不是政權機關。各種地區組織基本上是協商機構。需要指出,雖然「盎格魯-撒克遜」(Anglo-Saxon)式競爭型選舉方法已被植入特區一些年輕人的潛意識中;但是,咱們應該尊重與正確理解《基本法》起草者的原始設計(Legislative Intent 「立法原意」)。此外,特區有許多諮詢機構的建立過程沒有選舉要件,是非選舉產生的政府機構,如:「房屋委員會」與「市區重建局」,這些政府機構擁有相當大的行政權力。

細說一下特首李生『去政治化』的亮點。與「新區選」息息相關的是(1)具有迫切性「維護國家安全」與(2)具有持續性要求的「愛國者治港」這兩大原則。根據特首李生的意見:452個席位中只有三分之一將由直接選舉產生,其餘的區議員將由「民政事務專員」(District Officers)任命或由眾多建制派人士組成的委員會間接選舉產生。「委任制度」與「間接區議會選舉」雙管齊下,將確保政府能夠將所有已被鬆散化的國家安全問題納入特區的「雙級政治議會結構」。大家也看得出來,特區「新立法會」已在2021年12月下旬成功進行制度改革,確保了「能者為先」、「愛國者治港」。

筆者同樣觀察到一點。在區議會行政部門引入「委任制度」有著充分的理由。根據多位區議員的經驗,筆者建議「民政事務專員」可考慮委任更多專業人員,協助各區推行良政善治。舉例說明,現時眾多大型住宅屋邨的「業主立案法團」(OC)在管理屋邨時遇到很大困難。具有法律、建築等專業背景的區議員可為OC與千千萬萬的業主們提供寶貴專業意見、獻策、舒愁解困。從而解決大伙們就公契、法律及其他事宜所產生的爭議。

這些經「委任制度」產生的「新區議會」專業成員在各自的行當中已被富指導性與完善的「行為準則」(Code of Conduct)所約束,必須按照普遍性、普通性與重要性道德水平行事,在其專業知識範圍內為大伙們提供獨立專業觀點。過去,在許多區議會流行「鄰避症候群」(Not-in-my-backyard)現象,富專業水平的新區議員是不會支持基於個別地方利益所產生的政策議題的。筆者衷心希望經「委任制度」與「間接區議會選舉」產生的區議員們能代表社會更廣泛、更多元化的社區組成利益。
特首李生為未來的區議會提出了三項原則。要求新成員「維護國家安全」、全面落實「愛國者治港」目標與充分體現「行政主導」原則。大家齊來為咱們的特首點讚。大拇指豎起來!「新特首」帶來「新區選」,這些改革將帶來基礎性良政善治並滿足特區的民主實際需求。
特首李生正在撥亂反正。事實與資料來源已核查

註 1: Mark Roberti「The Fall of Hong Kong」New York: John Wiley & Sons, Inc, 1996 at p 295
註 2: 維基百科「香港區議會」available at: https://zh.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/香港區議會
註 3: 維基百科「單議席單票制」available at: https://zh-yue.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/單議席單票制
註 4: 維基百科「鄭達鴻」available at: https://zh.m.wikipedia.org/zh-hk/鄭達鴻_(香港)
註 5: 維基百科「沈子傑」available at: https://zh.m.wikipedia.org/zh-hk/岑子杰
註 6: SCMP 「Hong Kong national security trial: prosecutors accuse 47 opposition figures of plotting to turn legislature into ‘lethal constitutional weapon’ against Beijing」06.02.2023 available at: https://amp.scmp.com/news/hong-kong/politics/article/3209209/national-security-law-16-47-hong-kong-opposition-figures-contest-subversion-charge-major-trial

文:何君堯 現任香港立法會議員
國際公益法律服務協會創辦人
文:丁煌 深圳大學基本法研究中心兼職研究員
經民聯港島支部主席,「中國夢智庫」主席
國際公益法律服務協會顧問委員會成員
香港法學交流基金會副主席
全國港澳研究會會員

*作者文章觀點,不代表《觀新聞》立場