HKU wants you to have a say on next leader

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 09 February, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 09 February, 2012, 12:00am


People will get a chance to indicate their choice for Hong Kong's next chief executive in a simulated ballot if the University of Hong Kong can raise at least HK$500,000 to conduct the exercise.

Veteran pollster Dr Robert Chung Ting-yiu, head of the university's public opinion programme, said they would decide in two weeks whether to go ahead with the vote.

Chung said the exercise was not intended to incite independence, as some Beijing loyalists had alleged.

Instead, it would provide the public with 'an alternative channel of expression' on the election.

'The vote is not intended to challenge the constitutional set-up of the Basic Law and it works within the legal framework,' he said.

The plan would allow permanent residents over 18 to vote on March 23 through the website using apps on mobile devices or by voting in person at a polling station. The actual election takes place on March 25.

It has raised the ire of Beijing loyalists.

Hao Tiechuan, of the central government's Hong Kong liaison office, wrote an article last month that some Hong Kong organisations 'conduct surveys that serve the interests of certain political parties' and 'aim to influence public opinions'.

Chung said the poll - which he calls a 'civil referendum' - was not about sovereignty issues. 'To integrate with other opinion surveys, [a simulated ballot] would provide a multi-dimensional picture for the Election Committee members to understand the public sentiment and to vote wisely,' he said.

The committee will select the next chief executive.

Chung said he aimed to raise at least HK$500,000 to set up one polling station; if donations reached HK$700,000, up to five polling stations could be formed.

Donors could choose to be anonymous or make their names public, in line with the university's rules on fund-raising, Chung said.

HKU would reveal its financial report on the ballot a month later to ensure transparency.

If the poll goes ahead, people can cast their ballots online between midnight and 8pm on March 23 after providing their ID card numbers and mobile numbers; or vote in person from 9am to 9pm. The result is expected to be announced by 10pm.

Chung admitted the plan was not foolproof - he could not entirely prevent people using fake ID numbers or those aged below 18 from voting.

But the exercise could serve as an experiment in the feasibility of e-voting. By engaging the public in the election, it would promote the development of civil society.

A separate survey of 730 people aged between 18 and 34 conducted by the Institute of Education gave former Executive Council convenor Leung Chun-ying a support rate of 32.1 per cent, with former chief secretary Henry Tang Ying-yen on 20.6 per cent and pan-democratic candidate Albert Ho Chun-yan at 8.1 per cent. The survey was conducted between January 4 and 18.