Attendance rates at District Council meetings of members who also serve as Legislative Councilors have improved in 2017 compared to the past few years, but the records are still far from ideal.
Investigations by Hong Kong Economic Journal reporters reveal that some of the more experienced members who hold dual positions would often arrive late for District Council meetings or would leave soon after meetings have started.
Some members would just arrive to show their face and leave shortly after, without bothering to sit through the discussions.
One typical example of such activity is Yuen Long District Council member Leung Che-cheung, according to the report.
In one instance, Leung is said to have left a District Council (DC) meeting after only spending 15 minutes at the venue. On at least four other occasions, he also left the gatherings early.
Leung’s overall hourly count places him as being present for only 525 minutes out of a total of 1,445 minutes at meetings, giving him an attendance rate of 36 percent.
Asked for an explanation, Leung pointed out that meeting schedules of District Councils often clash with those of the Legislative Council, forcing him to decide which was more important.
He admitted that it was difficult to juggle between meetings at the Legco and his District Council. Despite the situation, he was able to perform his dual duties effectively, he said, claiming that he had been voicing out his opinions at key meetings.
Some members with dual membership had been quite good at getting to their meetings, but it was only rarely that they would sit through the entire meeting, HKEJ noted.
Leung Yiu-chung has the lowest attendance amongst all such lawmakers, after the pro-labor legislator had become one of the “super District Councilors” based on the voting of functional constituency at the LegCo.
Out of the five meetings of the District Council of the Kwai Tsing District, Leung Yiu-chung had been absent twice, and was present for only 23 minutes in another one. His attendance rate is less than 24 percent, representing 267 minutes of presence out of a possible 1,114 minutes.
Leung Yiu-chung defended his record, saying that voting in the LegCo is mostly held on Thursdays, which clashes with the District Council meetings.
Statistics show that not all members with dual membership are faring badly in their duties to juggle between two sets of responsibilities. The record of the younger members is especially good.
Edward Lau Kwok-fan from the Democratic Alliance for the Betterment of Hong Kong has emerged as being the most diligent representative with an attendance rate of 94 percent. Lau left a District Council meeting early only on one occasion, out of five such sessions.
Lau told HKEJ that it has been a physically demanding term for him as it was his first time being a dual member. He needs to put in extra effort also because he lives in the northern district, making travelling to and from the Legislative Council a long journey.
Lau believes he should be present more often at the Legislative Council as he is a new member of the group. District Councils and LegCo can in fact complement each other as most legislations would already have been discussed in the District Council beforehand, he said.
Political observers note that Legislative Council meetings are considered more important with regard to the decision-making aspect, so it’s not surprising that many dual members would choose to attend LegCo sessions rather than the District Council meetings if schedules overlap.
Ivan Choy, a senior lecturer at the Chinese University of Hong Kong, thinks that family is also a contributing factor to senior members being less active in their participation in both meetings.
He describes the younger politicians as “more youthful and energetic”, which is reflected in their higher attendance rates. Choy added that some members would prioritize LegCo sessions as they get higher pay for that role compared to the duties as District Council member.
He believes that in the short term, it would be quite difficult to resolve this situation as the core of the problem lies with the system.
Ultimately, it falls upon the public to keep an eye on the attendance figures of their elected representatives and decide whether the members deserve to be re-elected, he said.
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