On a Roll at the Poll
It maybe that some of Hong Kong's youngest voters, and a few electoral candidates do not have experience of being involved in fair and honest elections. Elections like those held in November don't happen all that often. Hong Kong does have electoral laws; District Council Elections are regulated by the Elections (Corrupt and Illegal Conduct) Ordinance (ECICO) which is enforced by the ICAC. Any person who breaches the ECICO is liable to a maximum penalty of a fine of $500,000 and imprisonment for 7 years. There was even a public consultation exercise on Electoral matters in 2017, with some 15,000 written submissions made. Despite these measures there is a lot of evidence that the rules of engagement are neither publicised adequately to the public prior to the elections, nor are they properly enforced. In fact, it's fair to say that this laxity has for years played into the hands of the CCP and pro-government legislators.
What may be considered "the Chinese way of doing things" does not foster real long term engagement with the political process or the candidates, but instead promotes greed and short-sighted behaviour. If a candidate is corrupt and is prepared to spend or cheat their way into government office, how would they behave once they have secured the reigns of power?
The 2019 District Council Elections provided many examples of small and large scale, isolated and widespread corrupt practices. As HK reaches out for universal suffrage these are practices we note that should have no part in free, fair and impartial elections :
1. Election candidates giving gifts or incentives to voters before or after voting. Voters were seen with pillows, goodie bags, bags of rice, and red envelopes or lai see (a traditional Chinese New Year gift of cash)
2. Tampering with other candidate's advertising in the lead up to Election Day. There were complaints that the candidate's voting paper number displayed on advertising banners was sometimes purposefully changed by opponents to confuse voters.
3. When some elderly or disabled voters were confused about the voting process they were reportedly sometimes pressured by party officials to vote in a particular way.
4. Vulnerable institutionalised persons with intellectual weaknesses were directed to cast votes for specific candidates by their caregivers.
5. Providing electors with stickers, flyers or cards immediately before they entered a polling station that directed them to vote for a particular candidate.
6. Extensive and continuing candidate publicity in and around housing estates, shopping centres, or schools on Election Day, especially near polling stations.
7. Voters registering as an elector in a district they do not reside in.
8. Candidates arranging bus transport to bring their supporters to vote at a particular polling station en masse.
9. The unauthorised filming of people entering and leaving polling stations.
10. Unauthorised photography inside polling stations.
11. Citizens effectively denied their right to vote: protesters unable to leave PolyU due to the police siege there were not able to vote.
13. Employers promoting particular candidates to their staff.
14. Disqualification of votes cast by the returning officer, without explanation. There needs to be transparency to ensure unquestionable honesty and fairness.
15. Attempts to exclude observers and candidates from the vote-counting process.
16. Violence and threats against candidates ahead of elections.
17. Intimidation of candidates who raise objections with returning officers.
In addition to these issues there is the separate matter of how the voter roll is prepared and maintained in Hong Kong. We understand voter registration was an issue in the 2011 District Council Election, with complaints being made to the Registration and Electoral Office, and to the Constitutional and Mainland Affairs Bureau. There are instances, for example, of voters registering using commercial addresses rather than residential addresses. It has been claimed that some voters were able to register without providing either proof of their residential address, or their official Hong Kong identification card. Despite the issues raised then, about faults in the voter registration system, nothing seems to have changed.
Numerous reports of events across HK on the day of the poll as published by local media.
Video in English of mainland Chinese filming voters going into a polling booth: