The Legislative Council Panel on Constitutional Affairs met on Monday to discuss the enhancement of the voter registration scheme, following the release of the government’s consultation document on the issue in late November. The suggestion that a proof of their address should be submitted by voters during the registration process was supported by most pan-democrats, but Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong (DAB) Chairperson Starry Lee appeared reluctant to agree.

Although she said that behaviour such as vote rigging could affect the fairness of elections, and urged the enforcement agencies to deal with such cases strictly, she questioned whether this was a case of “sentencing without trial”, in which it was made to appear as if a certain camp was engaging in vote-rigging behaviour, Stand News reported.

starry lee
Starry Lee. File Photo: Stand News.

Lee agreed that there should be heavy penalties, but expressed her reservations about voters submitting proof of their address. “I think we need a better system before we can discuss this,” she said. For example, the public authorities first needed to spot-check newly registered addresses.

Secretary for Constitutional and Mainland Affairs Raymond Tam Chi-yuen said that the suggestion was to tackle instances of vote rigging and malicious altering of voter details. Apart from submitting proof of address, their flatmates could also be asked to sign a declaration. Lawyers, Justices of the Peace and District Offices will also provide free declaration services.

For the pan-democratic camp, Cyd Ho of the Labour Party supported the suggestion that voters should submit such proof, saying that given recent cases it was better to have a strict system. Democratic Party Chairperson Emily Lau Wai-hing agreed with the suggestion, saying that “the public’s confidence towards the system is on the brink of collapsing”, and Raymond Chan Chi-chuen of People Power also gave his support, as well as pointing out the problems that could occur when senior citizens in elderly care centres were being registered as voters.
Tam chi-yuen
Tam Chi-yuen.

Chief Electoral Officer Li Pak-hong said elderly care homes have to act in accordance with principles of fairness under election regulations, and that they should not allow a situation where some political groups and parties helped the voters with registration.  Nor should the Social Welfare Department abuse the personal details of senior citizens.

The run up to the District Council elections this year saw a number of incidents relating to voter registration. In September, over 100 voters were found to be registered to commercial properties, vacant buildings and bogus addresses. During the elections, it was also reported that elderly voters were being shuttled to polling stations, raising concerns over potential vote rigging.

Karen cheung hong kong

Karen is a journalist and writer covering politics and legal affairs in Hong Kong for HKFP. She has also written features on human rights, public space, regional legal developments, social and grassroots activism, and arts & culture. She is a BA and LLB graduate from the University of Hong Kong.