Campaigns for blank, invalid votes targeted

Top News | Michael Shum 8 Apr 2021

Organizing or inciting voters to cast blank or invalid votes during elections could be banned as such action may constitute electoral fraud, says Secretary for Constitutional and Mainland Affairs Erick Tsang Kwok-wai.

Speaking at a Legislative Council committee meeting yesterday, Tsang said everyone has the right to choose whether to cast their vote or not.

But if "someone organizes or incites voters to cast blank or invalid votes, or even not to vote in elections, their actions are to some extent attempts to rig an election," Tsang said.

"There is currently no local legislation regulating such behavior, so we are looking into whether we need to impose appropriate regulatory legislation to fit the requirements in Annex I and II of the Basic Law."

Democratic Party head Lo Kin-hei said the move is ridiculous, adding voters casting blank votes may want to show their discontent toward the electoral changes.

"[The government] is trying to prevent a low voting rate or a high blank vote rate, which will embarrass them. This is very ridiculous," Lo said.

Tsang's warning came as the local legislature for electoral reform - set out by Beijing last Tuesday - would be tabled to the Legco for first reading next Wednesday, the Federation of Trade Unions quoted Secretary for Labour and Welfare Law Chi-kwong as saying. Law told FTU members that the government is hoping to begin law amendment procedures as soon as possible.

Legco president Andrew Leung Kwan-yuen can call additional meetings next Wednesday if needed, the secretariat said.

Government officials have also been holding meetings to explain the changes to various sectors.

After the changes, Beijing and the SAR government will consolidate their influence in elections as more than half of all 1,500 Election Committee members - who will elect the chief executive and 40 lawmakers - will be their close allies.

Some 539 seats in the Election Committee will go to those with close links to Beijing.

They include Hong Kong representatives to the National People's Congress and the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference, taking 300 seats. Another 110 will go to Hong Kong members of national organizations. Several professional subsectors will see six to 15 out of their 30 seats changed from direct elections to nominated or appointed by groups with heavy mainland influence. Individual votes will also be replaced by group votes.

Half of the technology and innovation subsector's seats will be nominated by scholars from the mainland-based Chinese Academy of Engineering and the Academy of Sciences.

Half of the seats in the legal subsector will be taken or nominated by pro-Beijing politicians as six seats will be taken by Basic Law Committee members under the NPC, and nine nominated by Hong Kong council members of the China Law Society.

Associations of "Chinese fellow townsmen" - people who group themselves based on their ancestral roots in the mainland - will have 60 members joining, while 17 seats will go to Chinese Enterprises Association.

That would mean Beijing loyalists alone will hold around 532 votes in the Election Committee.

People appointed by the SAR government will hold 216 seats. Half of the seats in the engineering, medical and health services, and social welfare subsectors will be taken up by government-appointed personnel, which add up to 45.

michael.shum@singtaonewscorp.com



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