Improving Electoral System (Consolidated Amendments) Bill 2021 (2021/05/27)

Improving Electoral System (Consolidated Amendments) Bill 2021 (2021/05/27)

MR YIU SI-WING (in Cantonese):

Chairman, the scope of amendments of the Improving Electoral System (Consolidated Amendments) Bill 2021 ("the Bill") is relatively extensive, and there are quite a lot of changes to the eligibility of electors for functional constituencies ("FCs"). Taking the tourism FC that I represent as an example, rather substantial changes have been made to the eligibility of electors, which are unclear to many members of the sector. Therefore, I have sought clarification from the Administration. Regarding the issue on the hotel representative status, the authorities have made an amendment to the current Bill after listening to the views expressed.


The first issue concerns the eligibility of electors of the tourism FC from the hotel category. It is proposed in the Bill that electors must fulfil two conditions to be eligible: first, they are licence holders as defined by the Hotel and Guesthouse Accommodation Ordinance; second, they are corporate members of the Federation of Hong Kong Hotel Owners Limited ("FHKHO") entitled to vote at general meetings of the company. These are in conflict with the actual operation of the industry.


Pursuant to the current Hotel and Guesthouse Accommodation Ordinance, a hotel shall obtain a licence for operation, with the registrant named in the licence being the licence holder. As a general rule, the licence holder can be a company, natural person or an owner that operates the hotel. But on the other hand, according to the requirements of FHKHO, only hotel owners may become its members. If it is required that electors must fulfil the condition of being licence holders to be eligible, some members of FHKHO may be disqualified as electors, resulting in unfairness. After looking into the situation, the Government agreed to make an amendment by removing the requirement of being licence holders. The industry welcomes this amendment.


The second issue is the revision to the eligibility of body electors. The Bill provides that an association or enterprise may become a corporate voter for an FC only if it has been operating for not less than three years after acquiring relevant qualifications for that FC. The period for which it has been operating is revised from 12 months to three years. It was explained that the threshold was raised in the light of the decision made by the Standing Committee of the National People's Congress. In addition, we think that the provisions should be drafted in a more specific manner. For example, "admission for three years" can be interpreted in two ways: that the company has become a board member for three years, or that the company has joined a trade association for three years. The boards of the trade associations of travel agencies are normally re-elected once every one to three years; some of them also set time limits on the terms of office. If an elector will only be eligible after having joined the board for three years, the number of electors will be substantially affected. Upon clarification by the authorities, the correct interpretation is that having joined a trade association for three years would suffice. The authorities also further explained that the maximum number of board members of each trade association will be limited to that as at the date of the First Reading of the Bill on 14 April this year, that is, based on the maximum number of board members as registered with the Companies Registry on or before that date. I appreciate the explanation given by the Bureau.


The last issue is the relationship between board members and travel agencies. At present, there are nine trade associations in the travel agency industry. While some trade associations admit board members in the capacity of corporate representatives, some others admit board members in their individual capacity. As explained by the authorities, if a board member joins a trade association in the individual capacity, such person must be proven by an eligible travel agency to have "substantial connection" with it. However, "substantial connection" is not expressly defined in the Bill. As far as travel agencies are concerned, "substantial connection" may cover a wide range of circumstances, such as being a founder, proprietor, shareholder, director, senior manager or honorary advisor. The scope may be very wide and thus disputes may arise easily. We hope that the Government will formulate relevant guidelines to set out the definition of "substantial connection" in detail in a table, so as to facilitate implementation.


Given the rather substantial changes involved in this amendment exercise, we hope that the authorities will meet with and explain to the sector more often in the future. As a sector representative, I will also complement the explanatory efforts and clarify doubts, so as to avoid misunderstanding in future elections.


Chairman, I so submit.