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Government announces proposals on improving governance at district level
  The Government of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (HKSAR) announced the proposals on improving governance at the district level today (May 2).  

  The current term of the District Councils (DCs) will expire at the end of this year. DCs had, in recent years, deviated from their positioning as "district organisations which are not organs of political power" under the Basic Law. A large number of DC members acted with no regard to the functions of DCs, or even went against and beyond the statutory positioning of DCs as district advisory bodies. Some DC members undermined national security; advocated the so-called "independence" of Hong Kong; supported the black-clad violence; objected to the National Security Law; unscrupulously interfered with and obstructed the administration of the Government; deliberately provoked conflicts; intentionally divided the society; created confrontations; ignored the livelihood of people; maliciously overturned the established mechanism and past decisions on district works; harmed the well-being of Hong Kong residents; and undermined the interest of Hong Kong. A lot of members refused, or were unwilling, to take the oath and hence resigned with various excuses, or were disqualified for making an invalid oath. They did not accept the sovereignty and the exercise of sovereignty of the People's Republic of China over Hong Kong. There were originally 479 members. Yet, with over 300 members resigned or disqualified, only one-third remains, i.e. only 146 members are still serving DCs. The situation is unacceptable and we have to restore DCs, as an institution, back to the right track. The HKSAR Government has to improve the governance at the district level. Aside from reforming DCs, there is also a need to strengthen the district governance structure so as to enhance the efficacy of district governance. 

  The proposals on improving governance at the district level consist of two major parts, with the following key recommendations:

Reforming DCs
1. To enhance the advisory and service functions of DCs;
2. To rationalise the division of labour and collaboration amongst DCs, the District Fight Crime Committees, the District Fire Safety Committees, the Area Committees and the District Services and Community Care Teams (Care Teams);
3. To designate District Officers (DOs) as DC Chairmen, and empower them to lead the work of DCs;
4. To optimise the composition of DCs and set the corresponding methods of filling those seats. DCs will be composed of appointed, District Committees Constituency (DCC), District Council Geographical Constituency (DCGC) and ex-officio members; with appointed, DCC and DCGC members accounting for about 40 per cent, 40 per cent and 20 per cent of the total number of members respectively, plus 27 ex-officio members. The total number of seats will be comparable to the current term (i.e. 479 seats). To introduce an eligibility review mechanism to ensure that all candidates participating in the election, as well as appointed and ex-officio members, uphold the Basic Law of the HKSAR and bear allegiance to the HKSAR of the People's Republic of China;
5. To generally maintain the remuneration package of DC members at the current level after the reform; and
6. To introduce a monitoring mechanism of DC members' performance, which includes investigating DC members whose behaviour falls short of the public expectation and imposing appropriate sanctions proportionate to the severity of the shortfalls.

Strengthening the district governance structure
1. To establish a Steering Committee on District Governance to be chaired by the Chief Secretary for Administration to take a leading role in the overall strategies, policies and measures of district governance; and
2. To reposition the District Matters Co-ordination Task Force chaired by the Deputy Chief Secretary for Administration and rename it as the Task Force on District Governance to co-ordinate and steer district work of various policy bureaux and departments, in place of the existing "Steering Committee on District Administration".

  The proposals on improving governance at the district level are guided by three principles: (1) national security must be put as the topmost priority and the "one country, two systems" principle must be fully and faithfully implemented; (2) the principle of "patriots administering Hong Kong" must be fully implemented; and (3) executive-led governance must be manifested.  Details of the proposals are set out in the Legislative Council Brief issued today (www.legco.gov.hk/yr2023/english/brief/hyab20230502_20230502-e.pdf).

  "To make the Government's work at the district level more effective and targeted, we also have to improve the district governance structure, strengthen the co-ordination at the central level, in order to enhance the capability and effectiveness in district governance, benefiting the people of Hong Kong," a Government spokesman said.

  "The proposals have advantages in various aspects. The reformed DCs will play the role of complementing the Government, so that the Government can plan and implement district services more effectively. With DOs being the DC Chairmen, there will be better co-ordination among DCs, 'the three committees' and Care Teams, so that they can complement each other to generate synergy, serving the people more effectively. 

  "There will be multiple methods for the selection of DC members, so that persons who are patriotic and have an affection for Hong Kong and are dedicated to district services can participate in the work of DCs through multiple channels. Furthermore, residents can seek help from other DC members apart from the DCGC members. The performance monitoring mechanism will allow the people to continuously monitor the performance of DC members during their terms of office. This can ensure that every DC member delivers due diligence and meets the public expectation.

  "The proposals will also strengthen the district governance structure, facilitating the co-ordination and collaboration of district work for implementing corresponding measures promptly."
  The spokesman said that, in order to allow the seventh-term DCs to take office on January 1, 2024, as scheduled, the Government is preparing the District Councils (Amendment) Bill 2023 and will submit it to the Legislative Council for scrutiny as soon as possible. The Government targets to complete the legislative amendments before the summer recess of the Legislative Council this year so that the DC election can be held at the end of this year. 

  Information related to the proposals on improving governance at the district level has been uploaded to the website of the Home Affairs Department (www.had.gov.hk/en/public_services/district_administration/dar2023.htm). Members of the public are welcomed to submit their views in writing by email or by post by May 16 this year.
Ends/Tuesday, May 2, 2023
Issued at HKT 19:34
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