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Referendum ruled out on seats issue

Carmen Cheung

Wednesday, January 20, 1999

THE government will not conduct a public survey or a referendum on

whether or not appointed and ex-officio seats in the district councils

should be retained.

Deputy Secretary for Constitutional Affairs Maureen Chan Leung

Mong-lin disclosed this yesterday when she attended a meeting held by

a bill's committee of the Legislative Council to scrutinise the

District Councils Bill.

The bill stipulates the arrangements for the election of district

councils currently District Boards to be held in November.

But the pro-democracy camp has dubbed the move a setback to the pace

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of democracy because it would retain appointed seats abolished by the

British in 1994.

The bill also suggests retaining 27 traditional ex-officio district

council seats in the New Territories.

At yesterday's meeting, the panel invited representatives of 21

concern groups and political parties to express their views.

Most of them opposed the retention of the appointments system and

ex-officio seats.

Democrat Cheung Man-kwong asked the administration whether it would

conduct a public survey or referendum to seek the views of members of

the public.

Mrs Chan replied that the government had conducted a study and a

comprehensive consultation from late 1997 until the end of last year.

"And we believe the opinions we have got are reasonable and

acceptable."

Mrs Chan had earlier repeated that of the 98 submissions received some

had favoured the retention of appointed and ex-officio seats.

Meanwhile, among the groups and political parties that opposed the

government's proposal, a representative of the Hong Kong Democratic

Foundation blamed the government's move for creating a political void

in the history of the SAR.

"The government is aiming to scrap the two municipal councils

although it says it will empower the district councils," said the

foundation's core member Tony Chan Tak-wai, who is also a member of

the Provisional District Board of Eastern.

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END


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