The Hong Kong government is “actively examining” proposals to allow voting by Hongkongers based in mainland China in December’s newly-restricted Legislative Council (LegCo) elections, a proposal which has been criticised by political analysts as open to abuse.
Chief Executive Carrie Lam made the announcement in her policy address on Wednesday, the last of her current term. Citing the Covid pandemic, she told the legislature the Constitutional and Mainland Affairs Bureau was considering proposals to let Hongkongers who live across the border vote on the mainland in the December 19 polls.
It was part of the government’s effort to “fully implement the new electoral system,” Lam said. Hong Kong saw a major Beijing-decreed overhaul of its electoral system in May, when lawmakers approved major changes to sharply reduce the number of directly elected seats and ensure that only “patriots” rule the city.
“By drawing on our experience, we will improve the polling arrangements and take forward various enhancement measures,” Lam said. The city currently has no provisions for absentee voting.
The possibility of voting on the mainland was first brought up by the government last year, with Lam claiming broad public support for the policy. But an opinion poll conducted for HKFP in October last year showed that only 17 per cent of Hongkongers approve of the proposal.
The voting arrangement – which would only cover Hong Kong voters in the mainland but not those living elsewhere in the world – was not included in the May legislative amendments for revamping local elections.
Elections expert Ma Ngok of the Chinese University of Hong Kong said last year any such voting arrangement may raise questions about the applicability of the city’s electoral laws. Hong Kong authorities may also encounter issues with vote monitoring and law enforcement in case of any illegal conduct.
Pro-democracy law analyst Eric Lai said in a column for Ming Pao in October last year that only allowing external voting in the mainland would lead to “vote rigging.”
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