The District Councils
, formerly District Boards
until 1999, are the local councils for the 18 Districts of Hong Kong
. Under the supervision of Home Affairs Bureau
of the Hong Kong Government
, they are consultative bodies on district administration and affairs. Majority of the Councils' members are appointed by the Government instead of by general election.
The then District Boards were renamed 'District councils' in 1999. The function, and composition and the arrangements for the election of district councils is governed by the District Councils Ordinance.
The bill which passed through Legislative Council in early 1999 included suggestion to retain 27 traditional ex-officio district council seats in the New Territories, despite these having been abolished by the British in 1994. The government rejected any public survey or referendum on the issue, saying that it had been studying the issue since 1997, and had received 98 favourable submissions. The pro-democracy camp dubbed the move "a setback to the pace of democracy" because it was a throwback to the colonial era.
The councils advise the Government on the following:
- matters affecting the well-being of people in the District;
- the provision and use of public facilities and services within the District;
- the adequacy and priorities of Government programmes for the District;
- the use of public funds allocated to the District for local public works and community activities; and
District Councils also undertake the following within the respective districts with its available funds allocated by the Government:
- environmental improvements;
- the promotion of recreational and cultural activities; and
- community activities
There are a total of 529 District Council members, of which -
There is a district council for each of the following eighteen districts:
Terms of office
Each term of the District Council lasts for 4 years. The first term began in 1 January
District council elections, 1999
In 1999, Tung Chee Hwa
appointed 100 members to the District Council. These included 41 from various political parties, namely the Liberal Party
, the Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong (DAB)
, and the Hong Kong Progressive Alliance
. There were no democrats appointed.
District council elections, 2003
In 2003, soon after he was elected Chief Executive, and apparently going against the will of the electorate, Donald Tsang
appointed 21 political party appointees to the District Council to dilute the influence of the pan-democrats as follows:
- eight members of the Liberal Party
- six members of the DAB
- six members from the Progressive Alliance
- one from the New Century Forum
Professor of politics and sociology at Lingnan University, Dr. Li Pang-kwong said "As in the past, most of the appointees were pro-government or persons without a clear political stance... ensur[ing] that no district council is in the hands of the democrats."
A spokesman for the democrats said the appointees "will have an unfair advantage in that they are getting financial support from the government which will help them run for office in future elections."
District council elections, 2007
In December 2007, Tsang named 27 government-appointed Council members.
- thirteen members of the Liberal Party
- eleven members of the DAB
- three members from the Federation of Trade Unions
Tsang was criticised for not appointing a single member of the pan-democrats in both 2003 and in 2007.
Prof. Li Pang-kwong, of Lingnan University
, said that the problematic framework of the councils, being under the Home Affairs Bureau
, has led them to work too closely with government. He cited the example of the 'copy and paste' Queen's Pier
motions passed by 13 councils to support government decisions as a rubber-stamp, and a clear sign that councils lacked independence. Dr Li recalled that a similar government 'consultation' on universal suffrage
in 2007, where two-thirds of the councils passed a vote in support of its position. After it was revealed that the government was behind the concerted District Councils' motions in 2008 supporting the relocation of Queen's Pier, Albert Ho
condemned the government of tampering with District Councils in order to "create public opinion", and for turning District officers into propagandists.