Poll intimidation tactics alleged

PUBLISHED : Friday, 14 May, 2004, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 14 May, 2004, 12:00am

Stiff penalties for pressuring voters, warns watchdog

The electoral watchdog has warned of heavy penalties for anyone trying to force others to register as voters, or to vote for a particular candidate.

The warning came after allegations that some pro-Beijing groups had put pressure on their members or employees to vote for particular political parties in September's Legco polls.

At least two people called Commercial Radio's phone-in programme Teacup in a Storm yesterday saying they had been instructed to use their mobile phones to take pictures of their ballot papers inside the polling station to prove they had voted for a particular candidate.

A man who identified himself as Mr Cheng said his work contact on the mainland asked him to vote for the Democratic Alliance for Betterment of Hong Kong and take such a picture.

A female caller, surnamed Hon, said a communist cadre in her home town on the mainland rang her recently and told her to vote for the DAB.

DAB chairman Ma Lik said he was not sure if communist cadres were behind the campaign, but conceded that local patriotic groups had been helping with voter registration and urging people to vote for the party. He said it would be difficult to verify whether the allegations were true.

Mr Ma said anyone who felt they had been threatened should report to the police or provide more details to the party so he could help clarify the situation.

Chief Electoral Officer Li Wing said anyone who intimidated or forced another person to vote would face a maximum fine of $500,000 and imprisonment of up to seven years.

The existing law prohibits the use of mobile phones or photography inside the polling station.

Non-compliance risks a maximum fine of $5,000 and three months in jail, said Mr Li.

He said the electoral watchdog had not yet received any complaints relating to mobile phones.

But he added there were practical difficulties in requiring voters to hand over their mobile phones before casting ballots.

'How would you react if I ask you to surrender your mobile. What would happen if all three million voters are required to do the same?' he said.

Meanwhile, the $15 million voter registration exercise had collected about 340,000 forms, half of which came from newly registered voters. The remainder are registered voters updating their details.

Registration closes on Sunday. Information is available at www. voterregistration.gov.hk