Team Clean tears down 'unsightly' election posters

PUBLISHED : Monday, 10 November, 2003, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 10 November, 2003, 12:00am

Banners erected in unauthorised areas are also being targeted in the crackdown

Officials are removing what they say are unsightly posters put up by some candidates for the District Council elections.

The action is being taken on a territory-wide basis under guidelines laid down by Team Clean, established to spruce up Hong Kong during the Sars outbreak. When formed during the crisis, one of Team Clean's specific targets was unauthorised posters.

But under various regulations governing elections, candidates are permitted to put up notices. Sources say civil servants are drawing a fine line between striving to keep the city clean and not restricting candidates from spreading their messages.

In Kowloon City, Food and Environmental Hygiene Department staff have carried out three clearance operations since October 30 to remove unauthorised election notices. These included banners, polythene boards, vertical flags and posters.

In Central and Western District, four candidates were asked to take down banners and posters put up at unauthorised locations. In Kwai Tsing, there have been 16 complaints - 12 of the offending notices were taken down by candidates and the other four were removed by Housing Department staff.

The situation is made complicated because under rules issued by the Election Affairs Commission, a candidate with written permission or authorisation can display election advertisements and posters on government or private property.

A Home Affairs Department spokesman said they had received complaints.

In most cases, candidates or aides removed the posters or showed proof, such as a letter of approval from the property owner, that the posters were permitted.

'If posters are removed by government departments, candidates may be charged for the expenses incurred in the removal operations,' the spokesman said. 'And then these removal costs might be construed as election expenses.'

Pressure is high on candidates to put up posters to tell voters of their policies. Apart from exhaustive door-to-door visits and standing on street corners handing out pamphlets, it is one of the ways to make direct appeals for votes.

In areas like Kowloon City, where there are 53 candidates contesting 22 seats, and in Kwun Tong, where voters are being asked to decide on 63 candidates standing in 27 constituencies, potential councillors have plastered walls and street railings with their notices. In Yuen Long, where 57 candidates are fighting for 23 seats, there are a huge variety of posters, banners and other political notices.

'The display of bills and posters adversely affects the appearance of our neighbourhoods,' a Team Clean statement said. 'As a world-class city, we must put a stop to such behaviour.

'We have stepped up enforcement actions and adopted a 'zero tolerance' approach against all such offences.'