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  • Dec 27, 2014
  • Updated: 2:58pm
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Pay Hong Kong voters for casting ballots, Silent Majority pressure group urges

Group set up to take on Occupy Central says low turnout at elections damage democratic development and lead to polarisation

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 02 November, 2013, 4:30am
UPDATED : Saturday, 02 November, 2013, 8:59am


  • Yes: 12%
  • No: 88%
2 Nov 2013
  • Yes
  • No
Total number of votes recorded: 366

Compulsory voting or cash handouts for casting a ballot can boost turnout and help make Hong Kong's politics less polarised, the campaign group Silent Majority says.

The group, formed in August to oppose Occupy Central's plan for a pro-democracy civil disobedience campaign, says the city's low voting rate is an obstacle to its democratic development.

But a political scholar linked to the pan-democratic camp has cast doubt on its ideas.

An analysis by the group found that some 5.5 million Hongkongers were eligible to register as voters, yet just 3.47 million had done so. A mere 1.83 million - one-third of those eligible - cast ballots in last year's Legislative Council poll.

"If only one-third of the people cast their votes … we highly doubt that the election results reflect the true public will," said Professor Francis Lui Ting-ming, an economist at the University of Science and Technology and an adviser to the group.

Chinese University political scientist Dr Chang Chak-yan, a co-founder of the group, believes mandatory voting will increase the legitimacy of those who are elected and help quell further divisiveness and radicalism.

"Radical parties are exhausting all means to attract votes, but [under compulsory voting] it will be of no use to them to fight, as the majority of people do not support violence," Chang said.

A system in which voters were rewarded, perhaps with handouts of HK$500 to HK$1,000, would be better than punishing those who failed to vote, Lui said.

"It will only cost the government about HK$2 billion per election," Lui said.

But City University political scientist Professor Joseph Cheng Yu-shek, convenor of the Alliance for True Democracy, said Silent Majority was confusing the concept of "compulsory voting".

"Compulsory voting means people would be fined if they failed to vote," Cheng said. "That's the case in Australia. Giving cash handouts only increases people's incentive to vote."

The problem in Hong Kong, he said, was that the people living in middle-class areas were less likely to vote than those in working-class communities, as they did not depend on the government and believed they could solve problems themselves.

"I just don't really know how much you have to offer these well-off people to encourage them to cast ballots," Cheng said.

Speaking in a personal capacity, rather than as an alliance representative, Cheng said he did not support the practice.

Australia, Singapore and Brazil are among more than 20 countries with compulsory voting laws.

In Singapore, voters who fail to cast ballots are barred from future elections unless they pay a fine or provide a valid reason.



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This article is now closed to comments

Is this a joke or what?
Why is there an election in the first place ? Because the people shall be elected democratically . One of the most fundamental criteria of democracy is the freedom of speech and the right to cast a vote and to stand for election. This right also includes the very individual decision to participate or NOT to participate in an election.
Forcing people to participate in an election is diametrical to the spirit and idea of democracy.
East Germany (the former communist part) was always proud of a participation rate of over 96% because the people were politically blackmailed to participate. Is that what Prof. Lui is aiming at ? I would have expected a bit more from an academic who is teaching our students who shall be our future.
Compulsory voting is the way to go. HongKongers should do their civic duty by casting a vote. It's not that hard. If the mentality is what's the point of voting because nothing will ever change, then nothing will ever change if we don't even cast a vote.
As for paying people to vote, isn't that just legalizing the purchase of votes?
Paying people to cast their votes is a thoroughly bad idea. Next you would get people selling their votes to the highest bidder.
Singapore again. Their rules regarding absent voters seem fair to me.
In Australia every citizen has to attend the polling station but is not forced to vote as one can abstain.
I see nothing wrong with viewing it as a civic duty. it is usually the people who are too lazy or apathetic to vote who complain the loudest about their government. Make them put their money where their mouth is.
The idea of forcing people to vote by threatening with a fine is a "BAD" one, and so is giving monetary incentives to people who votes, it is like legalizing the purchase of votes as someone commented below.
Voting is a right for people to choose how they will be served by the government, and if anyone who chooses to give up that right, he/she also gives up the right to complain.
Professor Francis Lui Ting-ming’s ‘Professor putting a price on protest’, of an interview of himself a month ago was a thinly veiled self-promotion by trashing others, he has now making an above turn putting a price to get (buy) votes. He is an economist after all and politic can be rightly manipulated by money.
Hong Kong professors are known for being subdue about public affairs. The outburst of many of them lately since CY Leung took office are making endless public statements is refreshing but sadly only to marred by their alarming shallow views disturbing otherwise their perfectly pacified existence. So, what is going on? Is their job security on the line – publish or perish?
Please keep the garbage to yourself so we don’t have to spend money to dispose them. I will support equal time for you Professor Lui, but don’t embarrass the good name of institute of higher learning with your low-level thinking as a professor.
As Joseph Cheng is worried that cash will not be an incentive for the middle class, then why not propose a dual system...cash for voters and fines for non-voters. The fines should force them out.
Once you take part in voting you are silent no more in the political arena. The silent majority by definition are the people who don’t vote. The Silent Majority is aware of that that it has no influential power in the political arena. Getting people out to vote is now become the issue and an awakening. A society free or not gets into trouble mainly because of the existence of a silent majority – they don’t care and they are being the largest group in the society. The noisy one and only a handful are usually the contributors in caring and giving their time to the society. So the irony is that the Silent Majority and its constituents really want to be heard and counted in the society they live. So let us give them equal opportunity to catch up.
Silent majority is the source of social and political problem really.



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