Legislative Council elections 2016

Hong Kong election watchdog has no sway over returning officers’ decisions, chairman says

On ‘Super Sunday’, parties lobby for last minute votes, and Electoral Affairs Commission attempts to distance itself from disqualification of candidates

PUBLISHED : Monday, 29 August, 2016, 12:30am
UPDATED : Monday, 29 August, 2016, 12:52pm

Less than a week before Hong Kong is set to go to the polls, the election watchdog has sought to distance itself from the controversy that erupted when returning officers disqualified a number of pro-independence candidates from the Legislative Council race.

During a visit to a mock polling station in Happy Valley on Sunday, Electoral Affairs Commission chairman Justice Barnabas Fung Wah said the watchdog had no power over the officers.

“The law has never stated that [the commission] has the power to give the returning officers any instructions,” Fung said.

“Because the law doesn’t give us these powers … With regards to what decision or considerations the returning officer makes, we have no role or participation.”

Fung’s comments came weeks after returning officers invalidated the candidacy of six aspirants for their pro-independence stance, including Hong Kong Indigenous leader Edward Leung Tin-kei.

Fung also issued a reminder to candidates in the Legco race to report any cases of intimidation, bribery or violence to the police.

The reminder came just days after Liberal aspirant Ken Chow Wing-kan announced he was ending his campaign in New Territories West after he allegedly received threats and bribery attempts.

“If any of the above has been used to induce or force someone to stand or not to stand, or vote or not to vote, [it] is a criminal offence liable to imprisonment for up to seven years ...

“Anyone that has been the subject of a bribe or coercion should immediately report it to the police,” Fung said.

Meanwhile, with just a few days before the Legco elections on September 4, many parties made a last-ditch effort to appeal to the city’s 3.8 million voters.

Known as “Super Sunday”, rallies were held across the city.

Hundreds of supporters turned out at Tamar Park for the “All in HK Alliance” rally, formed by localist groups Youngspiration and Kowloon East Community.

Naming the space behind the government headquarters as “independence park”, the group also put up a huge backdrop, which read “Hong Kong _ _”, leaving room for interpretation.

“I am supporting Hong Kong independence, so what?” Youngspiration’s Kenny Wong Chun-kit, who is running in New Territories West, told the crowd.

“This battle is not only for myself, but also for Hongkongers … should there be a bottom-up revolution in Hong Kong, I would not hesitate to sacrifice my life.

“We are so close to Legco now, please send us in,” he said.

The Democratic Party meanwhile, which is facing an unprecedented challenge this year from localist groups, also organised a separate rally.

The party’s founding chairman Martin Lee Chu-ming SC called on voters to cast their ballots strategically and not to vote for anyone with a zero chance of winning for fear of handing victory to the pro-establishment camp.

“We should vote for the pan-democratic candidate who has the highest chance of winning the final seat,” he said.

Reverend Chu Yiu-ming, who attended Sunday’s rally, said the Democrats had been a core player in the city’s democratic movement.

For the full list of candidates, click here.