A group of 53 district councillors have launched a petition calling for the cancellation of the proxy vote system at different local councils. They called it a “ridiculous system encouraging lazy district councillors” not to attend meetings.

The pro-democracy camp has around 122 district councillors, out of the total 431. The district councillors who joined the petition urged the Home Affairs Department to issue guidelines to abolish proxy votes at all 18 District Councils, since democrats only hold a small minority in some districts.

Twelve district councils have a proxy vote system – supported by the pro-Beijing camp – but six districts have cancelled it. In late June, the Sham Shui Po district council cancelled the system after a motion tabled by democrats passed. They scored a surprise victory, winning by twelve to eleven votes.

District Council proxy votes
Photo: inmediahk.net.

Sze Tak-loy, chair of the Association for Democracy and People’s Livelihood (ADPL), said the proxy vote system was used at his Wong Tai Sin District Council to pass a politically controversial motion on the joint checkpoint arrangement for the upcoming high-speed rail link –  even though the pro-Beijing camp held a majority.

“When they need to pass a motion that [Beijing] wants to pass, the proxy vote system will often be used to ensure the result, even though some district councillors did not show up,” Sze said.

“Some lazy and irresponsible district councillors do not show up at meetings and authorise their party colleagues to vote for them. This system should be abolished,” he added.

Kwai Tsing district councillor Ivan Wong said that, in some cases, a minority group of district councillors would beat the group with a majority, by using proxy votes.

He said some of the motions were tabled on the meeting day, and those who authorised the proxy votes ahead of the meetings would not even know what motions their votes would be used for.

“Such a system does not even respect the voting intentions of the district councillors [who authorised proxy votes],” Wong said.

Yuen Long District Council vote
A vote at a Yuen Long District Council meeting. File Photo: Citizen News.

The petition was also supported by district councillors from the Democratic Party, the Civic Party, as well as independent district councillors such as Clarisse Yeung and Christine Fong.

Non-elected members

ADPL District Councillor Yan Siu-nam, of the Tuen Mun District Council, said another problem was “co-opted members” at some councils. Such members are non-elected individuals appointed by district councillors to subcommittees.

Yan said at the Tuen Mun district council’s 27-member social services committee, 19 were from the pro-Beijing camp, of which seven were co-opted members.

“The pro-Beijing camp is using the co-opted member system to slack off,” he said. “This system should be abolished as well.”

Mak Tak-ching, vice-chair of the Labour Party, said co-opted members had voting rights at his Eastern District Council, where the pro-Beijing camp has 25 members, compared to only ten democrats.

Wan Chai District Council
A Wan Chai District Council meeting. File Photo: inmediahk.net.

“They have the same rights as district councillors, but they do not have any public mandate. They only have the mandate of the pro-Beijing camp,” Mak said.

He said the co-opted members at his council included assistants of pro-Beijing district councillors, and those who lost in the election to democrats.

Mak beat his opponent Kong Chack-ho in the 2015 election, but Kong was appointed as a co-opt member in 2016 and 2018, each time for a two-year term.

“This is utterly ridiculous,” Mak said.

Kris Cheng

Kris Cheng

Kris Cheng is a Hong Kong journalist with an interest in local politics. His work has been featured in Washington Post, Public Radio International, Hong Kong Economic Times and others. He has a BSSc in Sociology from the Chinese University of Hong Kong. Kris is HKFP's Editorial Director.