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Govt mixing up manipulation with campaigning: expert

2021-04-07 HKT 16:05
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  • Govt mixing up manipulation with campaigning: expert
Damon Pang reports
Elections expert Ma Ngok said on Wednesday that if people were to call on voters to cast blank ballots in future polls this would be a form of electoral campaigning, but not an attempt to manipulate polls as officials have suggested.

Constitutional affairs minister Erick Tsang said earlier in the day that organising, promoting or appealing for voters to cast blank votes could amount to election manipulation and sabotage – even though it is not against the law to cast blank ballots.

At a Legco meeting, Tsang said voters have a right to decide how they cast their ballot, but calling on others to do the same might not be acceptable.

"As an individual, of course you have the right to cast your vote or not. However, if someone is to organise or incite others to cast a blank vote, not to vote, or to invalidate your ballot paper, then to a certain extent, it would be regarded as manipulating the election," he said.

"You ask others to go to the polling station and you ask them to do [such acts], then you may change the result of the election."

But Ma, a political analyst at Chinese University, said there is a difference between trying to affect the results of an election and manipulating a poll.

"So all kinds of election campaigning activities would actually be trying to affect the result or outcome of an election," he said.

"I don't know precisely what [Tsang] meant by manipulation, because the government's been making accusations, such as arranging primaries, as an example of manipulating elections."

The professor said the government should do more to motivate people to vote, instead of outlawing abstentions or other kinds of protest actions.

As part of Beijing's transformation of the electoral system in Hong Kong, changes to annexes of the Basic Law state that the SAR government must regulate behaviour that manipulates or damages polls.