The Registration and Electoral Office (REO) has said it has measures in place to safeguard the security of ballot papers, after news agency Factwire reported that its polling staff were allowed to take ballot papers back to their homes a week before Sunday’s Legislative Council election.

News agency FactWire reported on Thursday that its reporters witnessed polling station officers collecting ballot papers, and they were given black suitcases with REO labels to put the ballots in and took them home in taxis. The REO has reported the “trespassing” to the police.

Photo: FactWire.

A government manual states that the papers are sealed in transparent bags, checked against official lists, signed for verification, and should not be opened until arrival at the polling station on the polling day.

FactWire also published three government election manuals on Friday. One of them is in English, and the other two in Chinese, including a manual for filling in a ballot paper hourly control sheet and a manual for polling station staff.

In response to the report, the REO stated that the arrangement for collection of ballot papers was “indeed the same as that for the previous public elections.”

Photo: FactWire.

“The arrangement has been adopted for years and has all along been effective,” a statement read.

“Given the fact that all of the polling stations are temporarily borrowed premises where there is no area for safe custody of ballot papers and, also, no proper procedures can be put in place for polling staff to receive the materials on-site, it is difficult to deliver the ballot papers to polling stations before the polling day.”

Photo: FactWire.

The REO also said that “suitable security measures are in place at the REO premises where ballot papers are distributed,” with a registration procedure in place to verify the identity of polling staff.

The REO said it has reported the case to the police, after “someone trespassed and was taking video on the premises” on Thursday.

Photo: FactWire.

The statement went on to explain the procedures during the polling day, that the officers would check whether the ballot papers are intact and verify the quantity of ballot papers.

Candidates and election agents can witness the whole polling process, it added, including the sealing of ballot boxes’ back doors before use, polling officers safeguarding the boxes, locking and sealing of boxes when they are full or after the close of poll.

Kris Cheng

Kris Cheng is a Hong Kong journalist with an interest in local politics. His work has been featured in Washington Post, Public Radio International, Hong Kong Economic Times and others. He has a BSSc in Sociology from the Chinese University of Hong Kong. Kris is HKFP's Editorial Director.