Vote-rigging fears spark probe
Colleen Lee and Stuart Lau
Officials are investigating suspected vote-rigging in the district council elections after it was found that electors with different surnames had listed the same residential address in constituencies won by pro-government candidates.
The investigation came as politicians from across the political spectrum demanded a review of the system to close loopholes after media reports pointed to possible electoral fraud in the polls on November 6.
The Secretary for Constitutional and Mainland Affairs, Raymond Tam Chi-yuen, said the Registration and Electoral Office 'will follow up cautiously' all complaints and the cases revealed in news reports.
'If there is any slightest doubt about integrity being compromised, the [office] will not hesitate to refer those cases to the police he said.
Chief Executive Donald Tsang Yam-kuen also pledged action, saying the authorities could 'definitely find it out' if there had been any fraud. Asked if there were any loopholes in the system, he said: 'Hong Kong's electoral system is fair, open, just and transparent. Bribery in elections is rare. If there is such a case, we will follow it up.'
Tam said a review would be done before September's Legislative Council election and officials would discuss possible changes with members of the Legislative Council panel on constitutional affairs next month.
Voters who provide false information such as an incorrect principal residential address face a fine of up to HK$5,000 and a maximum of six months in jail.
Tam said the electoral office had so far received about 60,000 undelivered poll cards sent to voters' registered addresses and more were expected to come in. In the past two district council elections, in 2003 and 2007, 100,000 to 110,000 cards had been returned.
He said the office would follow up on each one to find out whether electors had changed their residential addresses.
In one case, examinations of the voters' register found that 13 adults with seven surnames had listed a single flat in block 78 of the private residential estate Mei Foo Sun Chuen as their residence. It was alleged that the flat, in Mei Foo South constituency, was owned by a Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference member for Maoming, Guangdong.
In the Mei Foo South vote, Wong Tat-tung of the Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong won with 1,987 votes ahead of the Civic Party's Joe Wong Tak-chuen with 1,908 and the independent Ken Chan Kin-chun with 159.
In village areas meanwhile some voters simply wrote 'Lok Ma Chau' or 'Yau Tam Mei Tsuen' in Chinese, without specifying the location or floor.
Joe Wong demonstrated outside the Electoral Affairs Commission headquarters in Wan Chai yesterday with more than a dozen other pan-democrats to call on the government to investigate the suspected cases.
He did not rule out lodging an election petition in court should the government fail to follow up the allegations properly.
Democratic Party politician Cheung Man-kwong urged authorities to check immediately 10 to 20 suspected fraud cases in each of the 412 district council constituencies.
In the long run, he said Hong Kong adult permanent residents should be required to provide proof of residence when registering as voters.
Both the DAB politician Ip Kwok-him and the Federation of Trade Unions legislator Wong Kwok-hing said they saw a need to review the registration system to ensure fair elections.