Hong Kong’s election workers have been told to avoid wearing yellow facemasks, the colour associated with the pro-democracy camp, when they officiate at Sunday’s Legislative Council polls.

Electoral Affairs Commission Chair Barnabas Fung was asked, after touring a mock polling station, whether voters would be allowed to wear clothing with the slogan “Come on, Hong Kong,” translated literally as “Hong Kong, add oil,” or yellow facemasks, in polling stations.

Chairperson of the Electoral Affairs Commission Barnabas Fung meeting the press after visiting a mock polling station on December 14, 2021. Photo: GovHK.

The chairperson said on Tuesday that “polling stations highlighted that Hong Kong’s electoral mechanism is politically neutral.”

“Voting itself is a political action, but it’s confidential…and you cannot affect others. If you want to influence others, you cannot do so in the polling stations or no-canvassing zones,” said Fung.

The judge said voters were allowed to wear facemasks of “whatever colour” as long as it did not disrupt proceedings, “but we did tell staff members of polling stations to avoid wearing yellow facemasks.”

A man wearing a yellow mask holds a candle near police officers in Causeway Bay on June 4, 2021. File Photo: Jimmy Lam/HKFP.

“As for certain phrases, some phrases might not have any meaning in itself, but following the use [of these phrases] by society, they may have a second layer of meaning,” said Fung.

“…and if the polling station supervisor thinks that it will disrupt order or lead to unnecessary quarrels, the station supervisor can ask, and we can provide, jackets to conceal it.”

Hong Kong will see its first “patriots-only” legislative race on Sunday, after the electoral system underwent a major overhaul reducing democratic representation in the legislature, tightening control over the polls and introducing a pro-Beijing vetting panel to select candidates.

Publicity materials promoting the Legislative Council election scheduled on December 19, 2021. Photo: Kelly Ho/HKFP.

No traditional pro-democracy parties have put forward any candidates for the Legislative Council election. Most leading pro-democracy figures remain behind bars, are in self-exile abroad, have quit politics or are banned from running.

The government also made it illegal to advocate boycotts or the casting of protest votes.

Election committee votes

The electoral commission chief said optical mark readers would be provided at the Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre, where 1,448 Election Committee members will elect 40 lawmakers.

As this constituency uses the block vote method, meaning voters have to pick exactly 40 names in the ballot, Fung said the machines would be set up for voters to check whether they have chosen the correct number of candidates.

He said the machines would only be used in the Election Committee constituency, and the electronic readers would only count the number of candidates selected and not their names.

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Candice Chau

Candice is a reporter at Hong Kong Free Press. She previously worked as a researcher at a local think tank. She has a BSocSc in Politics and International Relations from the University of Manchester and a MSc in International Political Economy from London School of Economics.