Hong Kong removes elected councilors from district bodies, a first in 39 years

Published (HKT): 2021.02.21 06:01

Pro-democracy district councilors will be dropped from government-linked bodies that attend to issues about their neighborhoods, in an unprecedented move by the Home Affairs Department.

The reason was attributed to the 313 committees and working groups that the 18 district councils in Hong Kong had formed. Government departments could fully and effectively hear the voices of the councils through these setups, the department said in a paper to the Yau Tsim Mong District Council.

Therefore, district management committees would need to have only representatives from major government departments in each district, it said.

The pro-democracy camp had often accused Hong Kong government officials of refusing to work with it in district councils, after it won a majority in 17 out of the 18 councils in the 2019 election. District officers would not provide secretariat services for meetings with agenda items that were deemed critical of the police force.

District management committees, formed in 1982, are chaired by government district officers. They typically invite the chairs and vice chairs of district councils, chairs of committees under the councils, and representatives from government departments to attend meetings. The meetings serve to better coordinate services and facilities provided at the district level, and to encourage the public to participate in local matters.

Yau Tsim Mong District Council vice chair Andy Yu said the government was trying to bypass the councils and stop listening to them.

Committees under his district council had four meetings in the current term, where councilors worked well with the government on local matters such as traffic in Tai Kok Tsui and homeless issues in Mong Kok, Yu said.

Excluding pro-democracy councilors from the committees would harm policymaking, and the government would lose even more public support, he warned.

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