Flexible approach can enable HK residents on the mainland to vote

PUBLISHED : Monday, 12 March, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 12 March, 2012, 12:00am


In last year's district council election, a number of candidates managed to win by very narrow margins.

Following the election, the authorities received numerous reports about suspected vote-rigging from some of the losing candidates.

They then filed court petitions against the election results.

There followed a number of arrests in connection with vote-rigging allegations.

In fact, there appears to be a fine line between the act of vote-rigging and the rather common situation in which a Hong Kong citizen who has moved to the mainland remains registered as an eligible voter under the current register of electors.

In order to avoid legal traps, the government must promptly clarify the two different circumstances.

I remain convinced that Hong Kong citizens residing on the mainland should not be deprived of their franchise even though they can no longer provide their own permanent residential addresses in the SAR.

In recent years, the government has been offering the public, particularly young people and retirees, incentives to live or seek career opportunities on the mainland, including the latest Guangdong Scheme set out in the 2011-12 policy address, under which senior citizens who have retired to the mainland can still receive so-called 'fruit money' or Comprehensive Social Security Assistance payments.

I cannot see any reason why the administration should adopt a double standard when it comes to the right to vote for Hong Kong citizens living across the border.

This raises the issue of how these citizens with no permanent residence in Hong Kong can register to vote.

I urge the administration to adopt a more open mindset.

One feasible option would be to consider allowing these elderly people living on the mainland to register as voters with residential addresses belonging to their next of kin in Hong Kong.

Perhaps officials could draw from past experience by referring to the arrangements for prison inmates who are voting. Prisoners were allowed to register with the addresses of their 'last dwelling places', so as to prevent the very constituency where their prison was located from being swamped with the same 'category' of voters.

Priscilla Leung Mei-fun, legislative councillor