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In the political systems of Hong Kong, a functional constituency is a professional or special interest group involved in the electoral process. Eligible voters in a functional constituency may include natural persons as well as other designated legal entities such as organisations and corporations. (See: legal personality)
The concept of functional constituencies in Hong Kong was first developed in the release of "Green Paper: A Pattern of District Administration in Hong Kong" on 18 July 1984 when indirect elections were introduced to the Legislative Council for the first time. The paper suggested that the Legislative Council to create 24 seats with 12 seats from different professional interest groups. The 11 original functional constituencies created in 1985 were:
In 1991, the functional constituencies were more developed. With 9 directly elected geographical constituencies were created, 20 functional constituencies consisting of 11 types of industry in which 7 new functional constituencies including Heung Yee Kuk, Urban Council and Regional Council were also set up. The 7 new functional constituencies added in 1991 were:
In 1992, Chris Patten suggested additional political reform by adding nine additional functional constituencies with much expanded voter base to the existing system. The changes were implemented in the 1995 legislative election. The 9 new functional constituencies added in 1995 were:
After transfer of sovereignty over Hong Kong in 1997, there were 28 functional constituencies consisting of the following:
The Labour constituency will return 3 seats and the others with one.
By 2000, the seat held by Urban Council and Regional Council were dissolved by Chief Executive Tung Chee Hwa, the two seats were replaced by Catering and District Council. The District Council would be renamed to District Council (First) by 2012, as a result of addition of a special Functional Constituency which also having candidates from District Council but a different range of electors, named District Council (Second).
Currently, only 40 of the 70 Legislative Council seats are directly elected by the majority of people (35 through geographical constituencies and 5 through District Council (Second) functional constituency), with the rest of 30 elected by 28 traditional functional constituencies.
The electoral base is non-uniform, and there may be institutional votes, individual votes or a mixture of both. Approximately one third of members are theoretically returned each by corporate block vote only, a mixture of corporate and individual votes, and individuals only. In those sectors with mixed voting, four have a greater number of block votes than individual electors. Fourteen seats were uncontested in 2008; of the 16 contested seats, the number of electors, corporate and individuals combined, ranged from between 112 and 52,894 voters. Four of the FC legislators - mostly those returned in fiercely contested elections - are aligned with the parties which support universal suffrage; two are independent and the rest (24) are pro-government.
The Standing Committee of the National People's Congress (NPCSC) refers to the participation of the business block vote in the affairs of Hong Kong as "balanced participation". On 26 April 2004, the NPCSC published its decision that:
|"||Any change...shall conform to principles such as being compatible with the social, economic, political development of Hong Kong, being conducive to the balanced participation of all sectors and groups.||"|
In 2009, the Government published details of the electoral base of the functional constituencies as follows:
|Functional constituency[a]||Number of registered electors|
|1||Heung Yee Kuk||155||155|
|2||Agriculture and Fisheries||160||160|
|11||Architectural, Surveying and Planning||6,117||6,117|
|14||Real Estate and Construction||441||286||727|
|22||Sports, Performing Arts, Culture and Publication||2,060||155||2,215|
|23||Import and Export||875||619||1,494|
|24||Textiles and Garment||3,579||130||3,709|
|25||Wholesale and Retail||1,829||4,168||5,997|
|28||District Council (First)||425||425|
Pro-democracy supporters criticise the functional constituency system for giving a minority too much power and influence. The right of corporations and legal entities to vote is also controversial, as it gives some individuals multiple votes. For example, in 1998, Sino Group chairman Robert Ng and companies he controlled held roughly 3-4% of the votes in the real estate constituency, according to an analysis by the Hong Kong Human Rights Monitor; they described this as being equivalent in voting power to 15,940 people in a geographical constituency.
In some functional constituencies, the entire body of eligible voters comprises legal entities that are not natural persons. This is known as corporate voting.
In 2009, there were applications for judicial review to challenge the legality of corporate voting on the grounds that it contravened the right to vote enshrined in Article 26 of the Basic Law or was discriminatory in nature. Mr. Justice Andrew Cheung (as the Chief Judge then was) dismissed the applications, emphasising that his judgment was solely concerned with the constitutionality of corporate voting rather than the political wisdom of corporate voting or functional constituencies.
There have been calls to abolish the functional constituencies from pan democrats. The May 2010 by-election was triggered by the resignation of 5 pan-democrats from the Legislative Council who put themselves up for re-election to the Legislative Council. The 'Five Constituencies Referendum' concept to use a by-election as a de facto referendum on universal suffrage and the abolition of functional constituencies was hatched by the League of Social Democrats.
In 2015, Chan Kin-por, who was elected unopposed to the insurance functional constituency, criticised the electoral regime in Hong Kong for returning filibustering pro-democratic legislators when he spoke in favour of appropriations for the new Innovation and Technology Bureau, saying "everyone knows Hong Kong's elections are weird, and a candidate can get elected with only 20-30 thousand votes". Defending his own unopposed election to Legislative Council in 2012, Chan said that people ought not to underestimate functional consistencies. He suggested he was elected because chief executives of 140 insurance companies - the corporate votes making up the majority of his constituency - knew exactly who does things properly.
Following the consultations on the 2009 political reform package, where an additional five legislative seats for District Councils were proposed (in addition to Geographical seats) the government unveiled the revised package in mid-April 2010. It was proposed that the five additional Legco seats for the district council constituencies will be elected by proportional representation instead of block voting. With the proposals looking likely to be vetoed, the Democratic Party said they would support the measures if the five new District Council functional seats, and the one existing seat, would return candidates nominated by district councillors and elected by all registered voters.