Politics and government|
of Hong Kong
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The district councils, formerly district boards until 1999, are the local councils for the 18 districts of Hong Kong.
This section's factual accuracy is disputed. (December 2019)
An early basis for the delivery of local services were the Kaifong associations, set up in 1949. However, by the 1960s, these had ceased to represent local interests, and so, in 1968, the government established the first local administrative structure with the city district offices, which were intended to enable it to mobilise support for its policies and programmes, such as in health and crime-reduction campaigns. An aim was also to monitor the grass roots, following the 1967 riots.
Under the Community Involvement Plan, launched in the early 1970s, Hong Kong and Kowloon were divided into 74 areas, each of around 45,000 people. For each, an 'area committee' of twenty members was then appointed by the city district officers, and was comprised, for the first time, of members from all sectors of the local community, led by an unofficial member of the Legislative Council (Legco). The initial purpose was to help implement the 'Clean Hong Kong' campaign, by distributing publicity material to local people. This was held to be a success.
A next stage in the government's effort to increase local engagement and influence was the setting up, in June 1973, of mutual aid committees (MACs) in high-rise residential buildings. These were described in Legco as "a group of responsible citizens, resident in the same multi-storey building who work together to solve common problems of cleanliness and security." In fact, they were tightly controlled by the government. With government encouragement, the number of such committees increased rapidly in these private buildings, from 1,214 in 1973 to 3,463 in 1980. The scheme was extended to public housing estates, of which 800 had MACs in 1980, as well as factories and in the New Territories.
The next development was the establishment of eight district advisory boards in the districts of the New Territories, starting with Tsuen Wan in 1977. The boards, whose members were appointed, were more formally constituted than the city district boards, charged with advising on local matters, recommending minor district works, and conducting cultural and recreational activities.
Then in 1982, under the governorship of Sir Murray MacLehose, the district boards were established under the District Administration Scheme. The aim was to improve co-ordination of government activities in the provision of services and facilities at the district level and the boards initially took over the roles of the district advisory boards.
At first, the boards comprised only appointed members and government officials, but from 1982, a proportion of each was elected. In an attempt to inject a democratic element into the Legislative Council, the government introduced a model where some legislators were elected indirectly by members of the district councils. Twelve legislators were returned by an 'electoral college' of district councillors in 1985. The practice was repeated in 1988 and 1995.
After the HKSAR was established, as part of the 'through train', the district boards became provisional district boards, composed of all the original members of the boards supplemented by others appointed by the chief executive. (Under the British administration, the Governor had refrained from appointing any member.)
Later in early 1999 a bill was passed in the Legislative Council providing mainly for the establishment, composition and functions of the District Councils, which would replace the Provisional District Boards. The 27 ex officio seats of Rural Committees, abolished by the colonial authorities, were reinstated. 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 self-proclaimed pro-democracy camp dubbed the move "a setback to the pace of democracy" because it was a throwback to the colonial era.
In 2010, the government proposed that five legislators be added to district council functional constituencies, and be elected by proportional representation of elected DC members. In a politically controversial deal between the Democratic Party and the Beijing government, this was changed to allow the five seats to be elected by those members of the general electorate who did not otherwise have a functional constituency vote.
The councils are mandated to advise the Government on the following:
District councils also undertake the following within the respective districts with its available funds allocated by the government:
There were a total of 534 district council members in the third term (2008–11), of which –
Starting from the fourth District Council Election, the total number of district council members has reduced from 534 to 507, of which –
There is a district council for each of the following eighteen districts. The number in parentheses corresponds to the number shown on the map at the right.
|Term of office||Chairmen||Non-officials||Officials||Overall|
|Elected members||Appointed members||Ex-officio members
(rural committee chairmen)
|Urban council members|
(1.4.82 - 31.3.85)
(1.4.85 - 31.3.88)
|Elected from among DB members||237||132||27||30||—||426|
(1.4.88 - 31.3.91)
|Elected from among DB members||264||141||27||30||—||462|
(1.4.91 - 30.9.94)
|Elected from among DB members||274||140||27||—||—||441|
(1.10.94 - 30.6.97)
|Elected from among DB members||346||—||27||—||—||373|
Provisional district board
(1.7.97 - 31.12.99)
|Elected from among PDB members||—||469||—||—||—||469|
(1.1.00 - 31.12.03)
|Elected from among DC members||390||102||27||—||—||519|
(1.1.04 - 31.12.07)
|Elected from among DC members||400||102||27||—||—||529|
(1.1.08 - 31.12.11)
|Elected from among DC members||405||102||27||—||—||534|
(1.1.12 - 31.12.15)
|Elected from among DC members||412||68||27||—||—||507|
(1.1.16 - 31.12.19)
|Elected from among DC members||431||—||27||—||—||458|
(1.1.20 - 31.12.23)
|Elected from among DC members||452||—||27||—||—||479|
As of 2 January 2020:
|Ind & others||5||8||19||7||7||4||4||13||13||3||6||13||7||7||3||16||8||4||147|
|Ind & others||3||1||2||2||3||2||12||5||2||5||1||10||48|
Under the district councillor appointment system, 102 district councillors out of 534 are picked by the chief executive. The remainder are democratically elected by voters in each district. In June 2010, the government announced it would make proposals on whether to scrap the system in the next Legco year, from October 2010.
The party affiliations and politics in the Legislative Council can be echoed in the district councils, who have sometimes been accused of slavishly supporting the government. Professor Li Pang-kwong, of Lingnan University, says that the problematic framework of the councils, being under the Home Affairs Bureau, has led them to work too closely with the government. He cites the example of the "copy and paste" Queen's Pier motions passed by thirteen councils to support government decisions as a rubber-stamp, and a clear sign that councils lacked independence. Li recalled a similar government "consultation" on universal suffrage in 2007, in which 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 for tampering with district councils to "create public opinion", and for turning district officers into propagandists.
In 1999, Tung Chee Hwa appointed 100 members to the district councils. 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. No democrats were appointed.
In 2003, Tung appointed 21 political party appointees to the district councils to dilute the influence of the pan-democrats as follows:
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." After this election, this election would abolish the appointed members of the Hong Kong district councils.
Tsang was criticised for not appointing a single member of the pan-democrats in either 2003 or 2007.
After the election, Donald Tsang appointed 68 members, none of them from the pan-democrat camp.
hong kong districts toothless OR powerless., from p140