Hongkongers who live across the border in mainland China will be allowed to vote in Hong Kong elections without returning to the city under suggested electoral changes, local media have reported.

Chief Executive Carrie Lam will propose changing legislation to allow voting on the mainland when she makes her annual policy address next Wednesday, Now TV cited a source as saying.

It said that polling stations may be set up in Chinese cities in time for next year’s Legislative Council elections. Some would be located in the Greater Bay Area – a popular relocation choice for Hong Kong retirees due partly to lower property prices.

dennis kwok
Dennis Kwok. Photo: RTHK screenshot.

At a press conference on Thursday, pro-democracy legislators attacked the reported plan, saying it was designed to help government supporters. They vowed to vote against the amendment in the legislature and file a legal challenge if the bill passes.

Dennis Kwok, who represents the legal sector, said campaign material containing certain political messages could not be circulated in mainland China. “There is no Basic Law in China to protect our rights. Our ideas will not be able to get through to at least 15 per cent of all voters.”

There is currently no postal voting or overseas voting for Hong Kong elections.

Kwok said that if extraterritorial voting were to be introduced it should be expanded to cover all overseas voters. He said Hong Kong’s watchdog Electoral Affairs Commission does not have jurisdiction in mainland China.

Democratic Party leader Wu Chi-wai said some pro-democracy candidates without a home return permit allowing them to cross the border would be banned from campaigning in China. Wu said the planned change was tailor-made to help pro-establishment lawmakers.

count district council election box november 11 (16)
Photo: May James/HKFP.

The pro-democracy camp won a landslide victory in 2019 district councils elections at the height of last year’s protests, securing control of 17 out of 18 of them.

Elections for the higher-level Legislative Council were due to be held on September 6 this year but the government postponed them for a year, citing the Covid-19 pandemic. Chief Executive Carrie Lam said the decision was not politically motivated, even though 12 pro-democracy candidates were earlier barred from standing.

At a press conference at the time Lam justified the postponement partly on the grounds that some Hong Kong citizens were stranded overseas and in mainland China due to travel restrictions, and hence would not be able to return in time to vote.

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Rachel Wong previously worked as a documentary producer and academic researcher. She has a BA in Comparative Literature and European Studies from the University of Hong Kong. She has contributed to A City Made by People and The Funambulist, and has an interest in cultural journalism and gender issues.