Civic Party legislator Jeremy Tam has slammed the Registration and Electoral Office for condoning the practice of writing a candidate’s information on the voter’s palm, which he said was a tactic commonly used by pro-establishment parties to secure the votes of elderly voters.

Tam on Monday posted a photo of a Powerpoint slide to his Facebook account. He said the slide came from the Registration and Electoral Office’s training materials. It stated that if a voter has the information of a candidate written on their palm or on a piece of paper, there was no need for officers to intervene and the behaviour did not constitute an offence.

Jeremy Tam
Jeremy Tam. File Photo: In-Media.

However, it went on to say, if a voter openly shows the information to another voter, the officer should intervene immediately as the action could be considered canvassing, which is an offence. In a reply to HKFP, the REO confirmed the above directions to polling station staff members.

Tam accused pro-Beijing parties of using the tactic to coach senior citizens to vote for their candidates, and said the practice was very unfair. He also said there were reports of a candidate’s wife personally writing information on the palms of senior citizens in the last election.

Tam was referring to former pro-Beijing lawmaker Christopher Chung, whose wife and staff were seen writing the number of DAB and Federation of Trade Unions candidates onto the palm of a senior citizen in the legislative elections in September 2016. When confronted by an HK01 reporter, Chung said they did so upon requests by residents in the community and denied that the practice was unfair.

Tam criticised the office, saying it not only failed to curb the practice, but appeared to be taking the lead in condoning it. “Hongkongers most definitely can not let them win; vote on March 11, and kick out the pro-Beijing parties,” he urged.

Local media outlets have long reported instances of elderly voters in care centres being shuttled to polling stations during elections. Local groups and parties also reportedly handed out biscuits and treats to elderly people in exchange for supporting certain pro-Beijing candidates.

The Legislative Council by-elections will take place this Sunday to fill four seats vacated in the oath-taking row. According to the law, any person who engages in illegal conduct during an election is liable to a fine of HK$50,000 and one year imprisonment.

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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.