The government has scrapped a suggestion to shorten voting hours during elections after overwhelming opposition from the public.

The decision was revealed in a report issued by the government on Tuesday, which detailed the results of a public consultation held last year.

Normally, polling hours are between 7:30am and 10:30pm. Out of 15,400 written submissions received by the government, 99.7 per cent opposed the change.

Taikoo Shing
Voting queue at the Taikoo Shing polling station in 2016.

Some wrote to the government saying that voters had to wait until 2:30am at the Taikoo Shing polling station in the 2016 Legislative Council election owing to a long queue, and it was not justifiable to shorten polling hours.

“Specifically… there is currently no alternative arrangement for electors who are unable to go to the designated polling stations in person to vote on polling day. As such, any change may result in some electors not being able to cast their votes,” the government said.

The government also planned to implement an exemption so that the public will be safe from criminal liability if they merely incur electricity or internet access charges when expressing support for an election candidate on social media.

Currently, it is illegal for individuals or groups to incur election advertisement expenses for candidates if they are not the candidates themselves or their election expense agents. The exemption will be introduced in a government bill this year.

The government did not make any changes to existing regulations for election surveys. The pro-Beijing camp has been urging the government to regulate law scholar Benny Tai’s “Thunder Go” strategic voting scheme, which aimed to maximise chances for pro-democracy candidates by telling voters who to vote for at different times throughout the voting period.

Legislative Council by-election polling station
Legislative Council by-election polling station. Photo:

Last year, the government suggested raising the penalty for making false statements on voter registration forms, following concerns over the accuracy of registration details.

Ivan Choy, a political scientist at the Chinese University of Hong Kong, told Apple Daily that he believed the government did not want to start a new fight with the democrats, as there were other upcoming controversial laws such as the national anthem law and the joint checkpoint arrangement.

Pro-Beijing Federation of Trade Unions lawmaker Wong Kwok-kin said the consultation result was beneficial to the pro-democracy camp, and said the government was trying to avoid a political confrontation.

“The pro-establishment camp is not very satisfied with the result,” he said.

But Charles Mok, the pro-democracy camp’s convener, said they only gave reasonable suggestions and the government was not doing the camp a favour.

Kris Cheng

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.