The Hong Kong government may set up polling booths at one of the city’s quarantine centres to facilitate voting in the upcoming legislative elections for those under quarantine, a minister has said.

Erick Tsang secretary for constitutional and mainland affairs
Erick Tsang. Photo: LegCo screenshot.

During a Legislative Council session on Wednesday, Secretary for Constitutional and Mainland Affairs Erick Tsang told lawmakers that the government is in the early stage of a plan to set up polling stations near the Penny’s Bay Quarantine Centre. It will allow Hongkongers undergoing quarantine to leave their rooms and cast ballots during the 2021 Legislative Council elections in December.

“We are considering three aspects: public hygiene, public acceptance and convenience to voters. There will be adjustments [to the plan] depending on the epidemic,” Tsang said.

He said other quarantine centres may be included.

No voting in China

In response to pro-establishment lawmaker Gary Chan’s question about voters being unable to travel back to the city from mainland China under Covid-19 travel restrictions, Tsang said it would be unlikely that the government will allow citizens to vote from over the border.

“Whether technically, legally and in terms of coordination with mainland [authorities], there are many areas that require overcoming [challenges] and study. We will not take this lightly before there is a certain, reliable basis to push for voting from the mainland,” Tsang said.

The government is, however, looking at whether to set up polling stations near the border controls in Hong Kong, he said. Voters may cast their ballots immediately after crossing the border, without going through quarantine.

Former Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying casting his ballot in the 2016 Legislative Council Election.  2016 legco election
Leung Chun-ying. Photo: GovHK.

Meanwhile, Tsang also said that obstructing or preventing another person from voting in an election, as well as any act of inciting another person not to vote, to cast blank or invalid votes by way of public activity during an election, are all actions that have been outlawed under the newly amended Elections (Corrupt and Illegal Conduct) Ordinance.

“As the law enforcement agency of the ECICO, the ICAC will pay close attention to conduct that may constitute manipulation of or sabotaging the elections, and take resolute law enforcement action to combat such illegal activities,” he said.

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Selina Cheng is a Hong Kong journalist who previously worked with HK01, Quartz and AFP Beijing. She also covered the Umbrella Movement for AP and reported for a newspaper in France. Selina has studied investigative reporting at the Columbia Journalism School.