Organisers of mock poll to pick Hong Kong leader hope one million take part

Occupy co-founder Benny Tai urges the 1,194 Election Committee members who will vote for real on March 26 to take note of the people’s choice

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 08 March, 2017, 8:07pm
UPDATED : Wednesday, 08 March, 2017, 9:52pm

Organisers of a mock vote to choose Hong Kong’s next leader aim to draw one million participants and show the 1,194 people that have real votes who the public want in charge.

The “civil referendum” led by Occupy Central co-founder Benny Tai Yiu-ting will ask people which of the three candidates they prefer through online app Telegram or at physical booths two weeks before the March 26 election.

The 325 pan-democrats on the Election Committee have agreed to take either “major reference” from the result or to completely follow it, he said.

Pan-democrats rally to nominate like-minded and popular candidate for upcoming Hong Kong chief executive election

“State leaders in Beijing have said one of the four criteria for the desired candidate is that he or she is supported by Hong Kong people,” Tai said. “So I think not only the pan-democrats but also other members of the committee should consider our result, which will be a good indicator of public opinion.”

The other three criteria listed by the central government is that the candidate must love Hong Kong and the country, be capable of governing and be trusted by Beijing.

Tai urged people to take part. “It only takes you 30 seconds to pick up the phone and let your voice be heard by the Election Committee. What you do may bring a little ray of hope to Hong Kong.”

The public will be asked to pick “support, oppose or abstain” each candidate: former financial secretary John Tsang Chun-wah, former chief secretary Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor and retired judge Woo Kwok-hing.

Online voting will start on March 10 and end on 19 March, a week before the official election.

Voting at physical stations will be overseen by the University of Hong Kong’s public opinion programme on the campuses of HKU, Chinese and Polytechnic universities, and will take place on the coming two Sundays only.

Beware of privacy issues in mock online election

Civil groups organising the event drew a lukewarm response in an earlier poll that asked people to “nominate” candidates – fewer than 20,000 people took part – while in reality only the committee has the power to name contenders.

Tai said he believed the latest exercise would draw a keener response because last time the pan-democrats were split on whether they should consider public nominations.

Tai also said the pollsters had addressed the Privacy Commissioner’s concerns by using Telegram Bot, which would deny poll organisers access to voters’ telecommunications data, and by promising to destroy the data within a week of the poll concluding. The project is budgeted to cost HK$1.5 million.

At physical voting booths, pollsters will admit only Hong Kong permanent residents and check their identity cards. But for the online system, an “honour system” will be adopted and users will be accepted to vote once they enter their ID. The pollsters have no means to verify the authenticity of the numbers.

Those who found their IDs had been used by other parties to vote can override it by casting the ballot at a booth.

Angus Chiu Chi-fan, spokesman for Civic Data Hong Kong, which designed the online voting system, said it would be difficult for anyone to manipulate the results because each telephone number can only tie with one identity card and vote once only.

“Even if you want to vote with many fake ID numbers, you will need many Hong Kong phone numbers to tie each of them to one ID and vote once for each only,” Chiu said.