Youth I.D.E.A.S. 45

Governance and Constitutional Development

Strengthening the Role and Functions of District Councils

5 September, 2019


In Hong Kong, the District Administration Scheme has been implemented since 1982. The Scheme aims at promoting community development and nurturing civic responsibility and a sense of belonging. One of the elements of the Scheme is the establishment of District Councils (DCs). The election-based nature and front-line community work experience of DCs has made them an important cradle for training the political talent of Hong Kong.


The DCs’ performance, however, has always been criticized. Worse, the number of both district and territory-wide issues referred to DCs by the government, between the third term (2008–2011) and the fifth term (2016-2019), has dropped from 15,500 consultations to 14,700 consultations. This has caused reservations about the ability of DCs to effectively perform their role.


Nevertheless, DCs have had a growing significance in Hong Kong’s political landscape. Currently there are 6 DC members in the Legislative Council, and 117 in the 1,200-member Election Committee for Chief Executive (approximately one-tenth of the Election Committee).


Hong Kong society is changing, and the public’s expectation of DCs is increasing. This is particularly so in the case of young people. Their involvement and performance in the last DC elections (i.e. the voting rate, the number of candidates, and those being elected) was encouraging. Even though this might be due to various reasons, it does show that young people are looking for changes to DCs.


DCs have been in operation for more than 30 years. However, while the city has experienced many changes, the role and functions of DCs have not been assessed for a decade (the last review of DCs was in 2006). The next DC elections will be held in November 2019, so it is timely to explore what could be arranged to strengthen their role and functions, thereby making them more responsive to the changing demands and expectations of society.


In conducting this research, data was collected through overseas literature reviews on related areas, an on-site survey of 520 Hong Kong-based young people (aged 18-35 in July 2019), and exclusive research interviews with 4 academics and experts, as well as 15 current DC members. Some of the DC members interviewed do not have political affiliation, while some are from local political parties or associations.



  1. The value of DCs as a symbol of representing public opinion is assured and appreciated. It is also a testament to their growing significance in the political landscape of Hong Kong. The Government has a responsibility to assist DCs build upon their current significance.
  2. These are the major challenges that DCs face:2.1 DCs have difficulties in effectively reflecting public opinion to the Government.

    2.2 The Government does not attach much importance to DCs in respect of their consultative role.

    2.3 The constituency size was too small.

    2.4 Information dissemination fell behind the pace of the society.

  3. DCs are platforms for nurturing political talent. Yet, community work in districts has never been easy. Besides, the political career path in Hong Kong is not clear; the young generation hesitate to develop a career in DCs.
  4. Young people showed concerns over DC matters. They are also concerned about the policy discussion ability of DC members. Experts and DC members in the interviews believed that paying more attention to policy research could increase the quality of DCs.
  5. Some Standing Orders relating to the public mandate and public participation vary between DCs. It is worth discussing if consistency of these Orders would be better for the sake of giving clear guidelines to the public.



  1. Review the role and functions of DCs to ensure they keep pace with the changing demands and expectations of society.
  2. Enlarge the size of the constituency to broaden the mentality and improve the ability of DC members.
  3. Set up a research team to improve the quality of both DC members and DCs.
  4. Enhance the working relationship between District Officers and DC members.
  5. Improve information transparency so that the public can effectively monitor DCs.
  6. Make Standing Orders of different DCs in relation to the public mandate, public participation, and information openness more consistent.