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.
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.