Balloon drive at elections 'no bribe'
Giving away balloons to children during electioneering was unlikely to be considered an attempt to bribe voters, legislators were told yesterday.
In a paper to be discussed at a Legislative Council bills committee meeting on Wednesday, the Constitutional Affairs Bureau said a T-shirt or balloon bearing a name or picture of a candidate or having reference to a candidate was a form of election advertisement.
But the bureau said: 'Given the nominal value of a balloon, it is most unlikely that a balloon would be considered by a court to be an inducement to the child's parents or other relatives to vote for a particular candidate or particular candidates.' Members were told that candidates using such balloons have to comply with all the requirements for election expenses and election advertisements.
'Even if the balloons do not bear any reference to a candidate, they should still be counted as election expenses if they are distributed for the purpose of promoting the election of a candidate,' the paper reads.
The bureau rejected the Newspaper Society of Hong Kong's suggestion that only neutral advertisements, such as those issued by organisations calling on their members to vote, should be allowed.
The society argued candidates should not be allowed to publish negative advertisements as it put newspapers, which could be held liable for prejudicing an election, in a difficult position.
In a written reply, the bureau said: 'To uphold the principle of open election, candidates should be given the flexibility in utilising different channels for publicity at elections.
'As such, we do not consider the society's proposal appropriate.'