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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 (FC) 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 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 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 adding nine additional functional constituencies with a 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. Corporate voting was restored after it was abolished in 1995. It reduced the number of eligible voters by almost 90 percent, from over 1.1 million in 1995 to fewer than 140,000 in 1998:
- Heung Yee Kuk
- Agriculture and Fisheries
- Health Services
- Architectural, Surveying, Planning and Landscape
- Labour (3 seats)
- Social Welfare
- Real Estate and Construction
- Commercial (First)
- Commercial (Second)
- Industrial (First)
- Industrial (Second)
- Financial Services
- Sports, Performing Arts, Culture and Publication
- Import and Export
- Textiles and Garment
- Wholesale and Retail
- Information Technology
- Urban Council*
- Regional Council*
The Labour constituency returns 3 seats and the others return one each.
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 the addition of a special Functional Constituency having candidates from District Council but with a different range of electors, named District Council (Second).
In 2021, the National People's Congress initiated a decision to change the electoral rule in Hong Kong. As a result of this decision, the five District Council (Second) seats were abolished alongside the District Council (First) and Information Technology constituencies, while Health Services was merged with Medical to form the Medical and Health Service FC. Three new constituencies were created, namely the Commercial (Third), the Technology and Innovation, and the HKSAR deputies to the National People's Congress, HKSAR members of the National Committee of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference, and representatives of relevant national organisations.
The following table charts the evolution of functional constituencies of the LegCo:
Under the 2021 Hong Kong electoral changes, 28 functional constituencies (FC) return 30 members. The Labour Functional Constituency returns three members by plurality block voting. The other FCs return one member each with first-past-the-post voting.
The electoral base is non-uniform, and there may be institutional votes or individual votes. 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 2021, the Government published details of the electoral base of the functional constituencies as follows:
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 Justice 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.
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.
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- Loh, Christine; Civic Exchange (1 March 2006). Functional Constituencies: A Unique Feature of the Hong Kong Legislative Council. Hong Kong University Press. p. 33. ISBN 978-962-209-790-2.
- "Annex II – Method for the Formation of the Legislative Council of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region and Its Voting Procedures" (PDF). Xinhua. 30 March 2021. Archived (PDF) from the original on 30 March 2021. Retrieved 30 March 2021.
- 2008 Legislative Council Election Archived 7 October 2010 at the Wayback Machine, Government of Hong Kong
- Decision of Standing Committee of the National People's Congress on Issues Relating to the Methods for Selecting the Chief Executive of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region in the year 2007 and for Forming the Legislative Council of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region for the year 2008, Hong Kong Government Regional Gazette, 26 April 2004
- Distribution of registered electors by functional constituencies in 2021,
- "Rights Group Attacks Electoral System", South China Morning Post, 4 December 1998
- "Corporate Voting is Highly Corrupt", Hong Kong Human Rights Monitor, December 1998, archived from the original on 27 February 2009, retrieved 14 July 2009
- "Association France Hong Kong | A bridge between France & Hong Kong. A gateway to China". association-france-hongkong.org.
- "Chan Yu Nam v. Secretary for Justice". Retrieved 2 March 2010.
- Lee, Diana, (15 April 2010). 'Grab this golden chance' Archived 29 June 2011 at the Wayback Machine, The Standard
- Leung, Ambrose and Cheung, Gary (1 June 2010). "Democrats seek deal for support of reforms", South China Morning Post