Following is a question by the Hon Charles Peter Mok and a written reply by the Acting Secretary for Constitutional and Mainland Affairs, Mr Ronald Chan, in the Legislative Council today (April 26):
The Independent Commission Against Corruption announced on the 3rd of this month that it had arrested 72 newly registered electors and middlemen for alleged engagement in corrupt conduct of “vote-rigging” in the 2016 Legislative Council (LegCo) Information Technology Functional Constituency (ITFC) Election. The Secretary for Constitutional and Mainland Affairs (SCMA) said on the 8th of this month that it was time to review the system for registration of ITFC electors from three aspects, namely the standard of professional qualification of electors, the level of representation of the bodies whose members are eligible to become electors, and the need to have a unified registration standard. In this connection, will the Government inform this Council:
(1) of the number of complaints relating to the eligibility of ITFC electors received by the authorities in each of the past four years and the related follow-up work; whether, in the past four years, the authorities took the initiative to inspect the way in which the bodies specified for ITFC in the Legislative Council Ordinance (Cap 542) handled new membership applications and managed existing memberships so as to ensure that the specified members of such bodies met the eligibility requirements for ITFC electors; if so, of the relevant procedure and outcome; if not, the reasons for that;
(2) regarding the aforesaid review, of the criteria to be adopted by the authorities in unifying the standards for registration as ITFC electors; whether they have drawn up a timetable for the review, and of the specific improvement measures under consideration at present; whether the authorities will extensively consult industry bodies and frontline practitioners on the relevant standards and measures; if so, of the details; if not, the reasons for that; and
(3) as SCMA anticipates that the ITFC electorate will decrease upon the implementation of new measures, but quite a number of members of the industry hope that the ITFC electorate can be progressively broadened under a stringent mechanism for vetting electors’ eligibility so that the representativeness of LegCo ITFC election can be enhanced, whether the authorities will consider further stepping up efforts in vetting the eligibility of ITFC electors to guard against corrupt conduct in elections; if so, of the details; if not, the reasons for that?
With regard to the various parts of the question raised by Hon Mok, our consolidated reply is as follows.
Sections 20Z and 25 of the Legislative Council Ordinance (Cap 542) (the LCO) specify the composition of and the eligibility for registration as electors for the information technology functional constituency (ITFC).
The Registration and Electoral Office (REO) has started, from the 2012 voter registration (VR) cycle, the practice of issuing letters to the specified bodies annually to appeal to them to strengthen their membership administration and comply with their constitutions, and to adopt proper procedures to ensure propriety in membership administration, enhancing transparency, and exercising due diligence in providing up-to-date membership information to the REO. The Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC) has also, since mid-2013, started to visit specified bodies (including those of the ITFC) and provide corruption prevention advisory services to further drive home the message of good corporate governance and importance of a transparent membership administration. In late 2015, the ICAC also issued a best practice checklist on membership administration to all specified bodies through the REO to assist them in strengthening their membership administration system.
If the REO receives any complaint or information showing that a specified body or an elector is suspected of breaching the relevant electoral laws, the REO will take appropriate action to follow up the case, including approaching the specified body and/or elector for enquiry and information, and referring the case to the law enforcement agencies for follow-up action as appropriate. The REO does not keep record of the number of complaints relating to the eligibility of ITFC electors.
The Government will conduct a review on the delineation of the ITFC electorate from the policy and legislation perspectives. The directions of the review will include the standard of professional qualifications of electors for the ITFC, the level of representation of the specified bodies, and a study on establishing a unified standard for determining the eligibility criteria for registration as ITFC electors. We will conduct a consultation at an appropriate time after an initial policy proposal is finalised.
As regards the procedures for verifying the registration of electors, the REO currently collects from all specified bodies in every VR cycle the latest information about their members who meet the eligibility requirements under the electoral law for registration as electors for the relevant functional constituencies (FCs), so as to process new VR applications and verify and ascertain the registration eligibility of individuals in the FCs concerned, and to remove those who are no longer eligible for registration. In view of the recent public concern over the eligibility of electors for the ITFC, the REO issued letters to all specified bodies of the ITFC on April 7, 2017 requesting them to reconfirm whether the members on their submitted lists met the eligibility criteria for registration in the ITFC as set out in the LCO, and reminding them that they must administer membership in strict compliance with their constitutions. The REO will initiate the statutory inquiry process for electors who no longer meet the eligibility criteria for registration. If the electors concerned fail to submit documentary proofs before the deadline (i.e. May 2, 2017), they will be included in the omissions list to be released on or before June 1 this year.
In addition, before the completion of the review on the eligibility criteria for registration as ITFC electors, the REO will adopt provisional measures regarding new VR applications received for the ITFC, whereby the relevant specified bodies will be requested to provide proofs (such as documentary proofs of relevant academic qualifications or work experience) that the applicants are eligible for registration as ITFC electors. Where necessary, the REO will take the initiative to contact the applicants concerned for clarification or provision of information before including them in the register of electors.