Some candidates in Hong Kong’s District Council election on Sunday have been accused of attempting to sway voters by providing them with “cheat sheets,” free transportation and rewards.

The alleged vote-rigging appeared to centre around pro-government candidates and targeting elderly voters, similar to incidents reported in past polls such as the 2015 District Council election.

Chen Lihong
A card promoting Chen Lihong. Photo:

Palm-sized cards bearing the name of Chen Lihong and her candidate number were given out in Sham Shui Po. Apple Daily also reported similar cards being used to promote Vincent Cheng in Sham Shui Po and Cheung Pui-kong in Sau Mau Ping. All three candidates belonged to the pro-government camp.

Local media has also reported incidents of campaigners targeting elderly voters in wheelchairs. Apple Daily reported that two men took a voter in her 80s to a polling station in Kwai Ching, however, the woman later told the journalist that she did not know the men.

In Wong Tai Sin, four people surrounded an elderly voter in a wheelchair and told her to vote for a candidate from the pro-Beijing DAB party, according to Stand News. When asked by the reporter if she understood the purpose of Sunday’s election, the voter said she did not know.

district council election voter manipulation wheelchair
Two men escorted a woman in a wheelchair to go to a polling station.

Electoral Affairs Commission (EAC) chair Barnabas Fung said that, as of 3pm, the EAC had received a total of 3,638 complaints primarily to do with voting arrangements.

The Registration and Electoral Office (REO) had previously come under fire for saying that the small “cheat sheets” did not constitute an offence and that officers did not need to intervene to stop the practice.

It is an offence in Hong Kong to offer rewards to voters to entice them to vote for certain candidates, but it is not illegal to transport them to polling stations or ask them who they intend to vote for.

vote elderly district council election 2019 november 24 (1) (Copy)
Lek Yuen Estate, Shatin. Photo: May James/HKFP.

On Sunday, at least two voters said that they were unable to cast their ballots because their names were already crossed off the registry.

According to NowTV News, polling station officials told one voter in Kowloon Tong and another in Shatin that someone had already voted under their names. The two people affected could fill in a ballot but it wouldn’t be counted, officials said.

When asked about duplicate voting, Fung said the cases would need to be referred to law enforcement for investigations.

Unverified videos

Social media users on Sunday also circulated a video that appeared to show people getting off a coach in Chai Wan and being handed red packets by a woman.

district council election coach tour bus red packet
An online video showed a woman handing out red packets to passengers getting off a coach bus. Photo: screenshot.

It was unclear where the people alighting the bus were heading, and there was no indication that the woman handing out red packets was affiliated with any political party. In previous elections, coaches were widely reported to be a tactic adopted by the pro-Beijing camp to transport supporters to polling stations.

In an Apple Daily report, a person who claimed to be depicted in the video responded to allegations of voter fraud, saying that the group had just finished attending a funeral in Chai Wan. They then headed to a restaurant for a banquet and were given red packets as part of a traditional Chinese rite.

Separately, another widely circulated photo appeared to show people distributing orange goody bags in Mei Foo, prompting online accusations of voter manipulation.

district council election voter manipulation goody bags
Orange goody bags were spotted in Mei Foo. Photo: Telegram.

NGO Sunshine Action later told Apple Daily that the bag contained rice, oil, oats and some canned food, and was given out as part of a “private event” hosted by one of its beneficiaries, Alliance of Ex-Mentally Ill of Hong Kong (AEMIHK). The event had nothing to do with the election, said a Sunshine Action representative surnamed Mak.

HKFP has reached out to the EAC for comment.

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Holmes Chan is a reporter at Hong Kong Free Press. He covers local news with a focus on law, politics, and social movements. He studied law and literature at the University of Hong Kong.