Exposed: Pro-establishment supporters bussed elderly people to polling stations and directed them to vote in Hong Kong elections
Coaches and cars were out to ferry elderly voters to polling stations yesterday as speculation mounted that several candidates in the pro-Beijing camp had arranged free rides for elderly residents of homes for the aged and from rural villages. They were also allegedly told whom to back in the district council elections.
A South China Morning Post check found at least eight elderly residents of Kam Ma Home of Aged in Hung Hom taken in the same van in two rounds to the voting station in Hung Hom Municipal Services Building around 3 pm yesterday.
Incidents of voter-ferrying were also witnessed in Mei Foo North constituency and Pat Heung South in Yuen Long. In the latter district, cars arriving at the polling station at regular intervals to drop off voters, many of them elderly, was observed from 2.30 pm to 7 pm.
At the Hung Hom polling station, the senior citizens were escorted by two women who claimed to be “volunteers”. One man, who was stationed near the home, was seen holding what appeared to be a list of voters staying there and another was seen giving each elderly person their identity card before they entered the polling station.
One of the men was later seen in the nearby office of the Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong. The party’s candidate in Hung Hom constituency is Daniel Lam Tak-shing, who is running against incumbent pan-democratic councillor Pius Yum Kwok-tung and independent Wong Chi-keung.
An old lady, when asked whom she had voted for, said: “I have forgotten. I don’t know anyone.”
Another resident said: “They will teach us whom to vote for when we get upstairs.”
When approached, the escorts denied they were acting on the orders of any candidate and said they were merely volunteers helping elderly people cast their votes.
A caretaker in Kam Ma Home of Aged admitted that some of their residents were taken to the polling station by volunteers. When asked why a third party had got hold of the residents’ identity cards, she only said they would not allow the residents to keep them and refused to take further questions.
In September, the Post reported that a caretaker at the home revealed that Lam had been giving out free gifts to the senior residents almost every month and had encouraged them to register as voters.
He had also allegedly suggested arranging coaches to send disabled people to the station on polling day.
Lam yesterday refused to respond to the allegations even after being pursued for several blocks.
Electoral Affairs Commission chairman Mr Justice Barnabas Fung Wah yesterday said offering any benefits – including transport services – to induce people to vote, not to vote or whom to vote for a particular candidate was illegal.
Dr Wong Hung, a social work scholar in Chinese University, said elderly people's voting right should be respected even they were disabled but the ballots they cast must reflect their own will.
"If they actually do not know who to vote or apparently being manipulated, then it is definitely undesirable," he said. "Would these senior residents receive worse service in the care centre if they do not vote?"
Wong also pressed on the elderly home to explain why it would pass the identity cards of the residents - which should be kept by the elderly people themselves - to a third party.