Lawmaker confident problems on remand votes can be overcome

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 10 February, 2009, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 10 February, 2009, 12:00am

A lawmaker said difficulties were expected to arise over implementing voting arrangements for hundreds of suspects on remand but was confident the government could overcome them.

The consultation document on prisoners' voting rights released yesterday said arrangements for people on remand to cast their votes should be similar to those proposed for prisoners. Setting up mobile polling stations or polling stations in prisons have been suggested.

Secretary for Constitutional and Mainland Affairs Stephen Lam Sui-lung said yesterday the government hoped to arrange for suspects on remand to vote in a Sha Tin District Council by-election in the Tai Wai constituency next month.

Mr Lam said people on remand could vote inside detention centres such as the Lai Chi Kok Reception Centre, but he did not mention details of arrangements for remand suspects held at police stations.

The chairman of the Hong Kong Police Inspectors' Association, Tony Liu Kit-ming, suggested remand suspects should vote at police stations, to minimise the security risk. The security risk attached to people on remand inside police station areas, such as rooms or mobile polling stations set up inside police stations, should be low, Mr Liu said.

Lawmakers Lau Kong-wah and Margaret Ng Ngoi-yee welcomed the government's consultation paper on prisoners' voting rights, so that arrangements for prisoners to qualify for voting could be made as soon as possible.

Ms Ng said there may be some practical difficulties in arranging for people on remand to vote at police stations, but she believed the government could overcome this.

She said the government could arrange for remand suspects to vote at reception centres first and then introduce voting measures for such suspects held at police stations. Ms Ng questioned the rationale behind an option in the consultation document which suggests prisoners convicted of election-related or bribery offences should not be allowed to vote.

The Society for Community Organisation urged the government to fully consult prisoners and people on remand.

Options on voting rights

Option 1 Give vote to all except those convicted of election-related offences or bribery

Option 2 Disqualify prisoners sentenced to more than 10 years' jail

Option 3 Disqualify those sentenced to more than a certain number of years, e.g. 10, but allow them the vote when they have only a few years left to serve, e.g. five

Prisoner facts

Total: 5,411

Those serving 10 years or more number 779, or 14 per cent of that total

Number jailed for 10 years or more who are in their last year of imprisonment: 420

Source: Consultation document