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Unformatted text preview: Spring 2004 L5 Lecture 5
Local Administration, DB and UC/RC
(A) The District Boards/ District Councils
(1) Composition In 1981, to push democratization, the Hong Kong government issued the Green
Paper on District Administration (地方行政綠皮書) which proposed the setting
up of District Boards (DBs) in 18 administrative districts. The DB was seen as a
laboratory for democratization. The 1982 DB had about 1/3 elected, 1/3 official members, and 1/3 appointed
unofficals. Urban Council members were ex-officio members (當然議員) in the
DBs. In New Territories, the Chairmen of the Rural Committees (鄉事委員會)
were ex-officio members of DBs. In 1985, the official seats were abolished. The proportion of elected members
was increased to 2/3. The composition was not changed until 1994, when Chris Patten abolished the
appointed seats and made all seats elected. After 1997, the SAR government
restored about 1/5 of appointed seats and renamed it District Council after 1999.
Now the District Councils (DCs) elected in 2003 had in total 529 members, with
400 elected, 102 appointed and 27 from Rural Committees.
(2) Powers and Functions The DBs are consultation bodies on local affairs: affairs about the well-being of
residents, the priorities of government projects, community works and activities,
and the public facilities. It has no executive power over its decisions. The DBs have small sums of money for environmental improvement, and cultural
and recreational activities. In 1982-85, because of the DBs’ elected nature, the govt and the media paid a lot
1 Spring 2004 L5 of attention to the DBs' opinions. Major policies would always go to DBs for
consultation, with department heads present at the meetings. The govt. also
dropped the Electronic Road Pricing Scheme (電子道路收費計劃) in 1985
because of the opposition of the DBs. After 1985, with the introduction of elected members in the Legco, the media and
the government began to pay less attention to the DBs. In 1980s, the DB elections served as major forms of political participation and a
means of civic education. The DBs became the breeding ground of many
electoral politicians like 劉江華, 李永達, 陳偉業, 李華明. In the 1990s, the DB members focused on reflecting local opinion on local issues
and community improvement. Politically, the District Councils are now important bases of grassroot support for
political parties. The offices and allowances of the DC members are important
resources for the political parties to cultivate their local network. The DC
elections are now hotly contested by political parties, not because of the power of
the DCs, but because it can affect the results of higher-level elections.
(B) Urban Council
(1) History The Urban Council, set up in 1935, was the only public body that had elected
elements before the 1980s. The franchise was highly restricted. To be eligible as
a voter, one has to fit one of the criteria including: (a) passed the HKCEE exam;
(b) be on the jurors’ list; (c) salaried taxpayers or ratepayers; (d) owned a
business or was a member of a professional association. It was estimated only
440,000 qualified to be a voter by 1979. Only about 35,000 registered, and about
6,000 voted in the 1981 election. Franchise was extended after 1981 to all Hong Kong residents over 21. In 1989,
each District Board began to elect one member to become a UC member to
enhance the linkage of the DB and UC. The Regional Council was formed in 1986 to take care of municipal affairs in the
2 Spring 2004 L5 (2) Functions, Power and Finance
★ Powers Matters related to public hygiene and food hygiene: markets, abattoirs, hawkers,
street cleansing, refuse collection and disposal, lavatories, drains, pest control…
Licensing and inspection of food premises and selling of alcohol; management of
municipal services such as cemeteries and crematoria.
Management of cultural facilities such as libraries, museums, art galleries,
cultural centers and the City Hall, holding and subsidizing arts and cultural
activities such as the International Film Festival, Arts Festival etc..
Recreational facilities such as beaches, swimming pools, sports complex,
stadiums, playgrounds. Licensing of billiard saloons, bowling alleys, etc..
The Urban Service Department (市政事務署) was the executive arm of the UC,
responsible for carrying out the decisions of the UC. ★ Functions Before the 1980s, the Urban Council was the only partly-elected public body.
“Elected” members such as Elsie Tu (杜葉錫恩) were public opinion leaders.
The annual debate of the UC attracted a lot of media attention. After 1985, the UC ceased to be a center of public attention. It became a training
ground for politicians, who gained popularity by participating in DB and then
UC/RC elections. The allowances for UC/RC councilors also became a major
financial source for political parties/groups. As the elected members are more
responsive to the public, they drew in more public opinion in the management of
municipal affairs. ★ Finance After 1973, the UC was guaranteed a proportion of the rates (差餉) as revenue,
which gives financial autonomy to the UC. Revenue from the rates made up
about 75% of the total income, the rest coming from fees from various services.
In the financial year 1996-97, the UC alone had a total revenue of 6.9 billion. Since UC almost has financial autonomy, the UC councilors can determine fees
3 Spring 2004 L5 for their various services, and decide on improvements of municipal facilities if
there is a surplus. Abundant resources in the 1990s enabled the UC/RC to build
many new cultural and recreational facilities.
(3) The Death of the Municipal Councils Since 1980s, there were criticisms against the overlapping of functions between
the Municipal Councils and the District Boards. In 1998, the govt. released a Consultation Document on Review of District
Organizations, which raised several questions about the function of UC/RC: (i) Is it necessary to have three tiers of councils in Hong Kong?
(ii) The decision-making power of cultural and recreational activities, and food
hygiene and public health, are dispersed in different public organizations, which
brings different standards, bad coordination and inefficiency;
(iii) The public opinion function of the UC/RC, compared to that of Legco and DB.
(iv) Is the UC/RC making an efficient use of their money? In the 1998 Policy address (施政報告), Tung proposed to abolish UC and RC.
Tung considered it better to centralize the power over public hygiene, and
cultural and recreational affairs. He also concluded that the UC/RC have lost
their public opinion function. The related Bill was passed in late 1999. After the passage of the Bill, UC/RC was abolished after 1999. Power was reallocated to the Food and Environmental Hygiene Department (食物環境衛生
署) currently under Health, Welfare and Food Bureau (衛生福利及食物局) and
Leisure and Cultural Service Department (康樂及文化事務署) under Home
Affairs Bureau (民政事務局). Composition of the Urban Council
Ex-Officio Appointed Elected Elected by Total 4 Spring 2004 L5 members
15 Unofficials District
41 5 ...
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This note was uploaded on 09/16/2010 for the course SOSC SOSC198 taught by Professor Michelle during the Spring '09 term at HKUST.
- Spring '09