Legislative Council elections 2016

‘Can’t help think there might be some conspiracy’: 17 Hong Kong arts groups disqualified from voting in Legco polls

Organisations struck off list of voters for sports, performing arts, culture and publication functional constituency after being inactive too long

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 18 August, 2016, 9:20pm
UPDATED : Wednesday, 26 October, 2016, 2:38pm

At least 17 arts or culture groups have been told they are disqualified from voting in the coming Legislative Council elections, partly because they have been struck off a statutory list of voters after being inactive for too long.

The Registration and Electoral Office has allowed the affected groups until next Monday to prove their eligibility otherwise they will not be able to vote in the September 4 elections.

The issue centres on the sports, performing arts, culture and publication functional constituency and came to light after the updated list of “specified organisations” under the Hong Kong Arts Development Council was published in the Government Gazette last week.

About 17 groups are affected, according to the office.

The Legco seat represents one of the 29 functional constituencies in the legislature, where 35 lawmakers will be returned through the elections. Different voting systems apply to different functional constituencies. Some operate a corporate voting system, some an individual one. Others, such as the sports, performing arts, culture and publication sector, adopt a mix of both corporate and individual votes.

Under the Legislative Council Ordinance, arts and culture bodies on the council’s list of voters, or which have received grants or sponsorship from the council, are qualified as electors in the functional constituency.

Among the 17 affected arts groups is STRA. Its operator Clara Cheung said: “I think that is absurd. We have two more weeks to go before the elections and the electoral office suddenly wrote to me saying STRA is disqualified as a voter.”

She said her group had not organised any shows for the past three years and thus had been removed from the council’s list.

“I can’t say they are wrong but one can’t help but think there might be some conspiracy behind it,” said Cheung, who is a supporter of musician and pro-democracy candidate Adrian Chow Pok-yin.

Cheung’s group has received grants from the council, so she said she would try to register again.

She also operates another arts group, C&G Artpartment, which remains a valid elector in the functional constituency.

A spokesman for the Registration and Electoral Office said it had only followed established practice in dealing with changes to the status of the electors.

“In line with the arrangements in previous Legislative Council election years, after the publication of the final register of electors, if the [office] receives updated information from specified bodies that there are changes to the electors’ registration qualifications rendering them no longer eligible to vote … the [office] will issue letters to the electors concerned and remind them they may not be eligible to register in the relevant functional constituency,” the spokesman said. “If they are disqualified from voting in the election but still vote on polling day, they may contravene the Elections (Corrupt and Illegal Conduct) Ordinance.”

Chow said it would be difficult to put together an election campaign if the 17 affected arts bodies were not made publicly known, and he appealed to the office to release their names.

“As a candidate, how can I arrange my campaign if I do not know who my electors are?” Chow said.

His rival, incumbent legislator Ma Fung-kwok, said he would raise the issue with the government and ask the electoral authorities to allow more time for the affected arts groups to sort out their eligibility.

Ma won the seat with 1,106 votes in the last election in 2012, which amounted to 65.4 per cent of the vote.

For a full list of Legco election candidates, please see http://multimedia.scmp.com/legcocandidates/