Graft-buster issues guides on election rules amid suspicions of foul play in chief executive race

Booklet states it is an offence to dissuade candidate from running by offering advantage as inducement or reward

PUBLISHED : Friday, 03 February, 2017, 9:37am
UPDATED : Friday, 03 February, 2017, 9:37am

The city’s anti-graft watchdog has produced an information leaflet and a booklet with guidelines stating it is unlawful to dissuade someone from running in an election by offering benefits, amid suspicions of foul play in the city’s coming leadership race.

The Independent Commission Against Corruption’s new “Reminder to Electors/Candidates’ Supporters” highlights the relevant rules and distinguishes between lawful and unlawful actions in the run-up to the chief executive election in March.

The information booklet says, for example, that “it is an offence for any person who corruptly offers an advantage to another person as an inducement or a reward for that person to stand or not to stand as a candidate in an election”.

According to recent rumours, former finance chief John Tsang Chun-wah was offered a senior position with the Asia Infrastructure Investment Bank in exchange for not fighting for the top post.

Tsang did not comment on the speculation directly, but hinted that some people had been trying to dissuade him from running.

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Another such rumour was that Beijing’s Liaison Office in Hong Kong was lobbying on behalf of former chief secretary Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor. The rules say that this is unlawful only if the lobbying involves an “advantage” such as money or a gift, or the use of force or a threat.

“The law does not restrict the means engaged by candidates’ supporters to support any candidates. However, the candidates’ supporters must not incur any election expenses without the prior written authorisation of the candidates they support,” ICAC programme coordinator Lily Chung said.

The rules also state that donors contributing HK$1,000 or more must supply their name and address, and a receipt must be issued by the candidate, otherwise the money cannot be used for the election campaign and must be donated to charity. The receipt must be submitted with the candidate’s election return.

Lam Chuek-ting of the Democratic Party, who as a lawmaker has an automatic vote in the Election Committee, said this rule could make it more difficult for some candidates to raise funds.

“While this rule is not new, it would create pressure for donors to candidates who are not seen as favoured by the establishment, as some donors may not want their support to certain candidates to be made public,”

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Lam, who used to work at the ICAC, said a supporter could not make multiple donations of $999 to get round the HK$1,000 rule.

“But if a family of five all support one candidate, they can each make a HK$1,000 donation,” Lam said.

He added that the guidelines were generally existing rules.

The 10-page bilingual leaflet also covers scenarios concerning free dinners arranged by candidates’ helpers, and inviting a candidate to join a regular seminar.

It will be sent to all members of the Election Committee together with the polling notice, while the 200-page booklet is available on the ICAC website. The chief executive election will be held on March 26 this year.

The anti-graft body has set up a 24-hour hotline for complaints about suspected corrupt and illegal conduct related to the election at 2526 6366.

There is also a hotline number 2920 7878 for public inquiries during the election.