MR CHAN CHUN-YING (in Cantonese):
President, good morning. The 2019 District Council (“DC”) Election will be held this Sunday. It was reported that as at 14 November, the Independent Commission Against Corruption (“ICAC”) had received 201 pursuable reports in this respect, and among them 67 were related to allegations concerning the use of force or duress against candidates or prospective candidates, accounting for 33% of the total number of complaints and far exceeding the number of such complaints received (i.e. nine reports) during the last DC Election in 2015.
President, I would first of all like to declare that I am a member of the Operations Review Committee of ICAC. The figures mentioned above are just quantitative information for reference purpose, and they can in no way reflect the degree of violence involved in the DC Election this year. If we couple the figures with a bloody incident in which a candidate was stabbed at the heart with a knife, they undoubtedly serve to remind all voters in Hong Kong of the tense social atmosphere in which the DC Election is held this year, and can the Election be held in a fair and just manner? The adjournment motion moved by Ms YUNG Hoi-yan today gives us a chance to calm down, and reflect on the issue of what we should do to enable the election on Sunday to be held in a peaceful, fair and safe manner.
According to Article 26 of the Basic Law of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (“HKSAR”), permanent residents of HKSAR shall have the right to vote and the right to stand for election in accordance with law. There are more than 4.13 million registered voters and 1 090 candidates in the upcoming DC Election. I believe everyone of us attaches great importance to the election, and hopes to exercise our civil rights to elect DC members to serve as our representatives.
In order to maintain the well-established election culture in Hong Kong and have DC elections conducted in a peaceful, fair, open and orderly manner, a set of guidelines, namely the Guidelines on Election-related Activities in respect of the District Council Election, has long been drawn up, revised and promulgated by the Electoral Affairs Commission (“EAC”). The Guidelines cover matters and requirements on a total of 18 areas including registration of electors; voting system; nomination of candidates; polling and counting arrangements; election petitions; election advertisements; election meetings; election broadcasting, media reporting and election forums; prohibition against canvassing activities outside polling stations; exit poll; election expenses and election donations; corrupt and illegal conduct; namedropping; and participation in election-related activities by civil servants and officials under the political appointment system and attendance of public functions by both civil servants and candidates.
In the meantime, 16 related appendices have been drawn up to facilitate regulation of election activities by candidates. I will not list them out one by one here, but the areas covered include DC Election action checklist for candidates; methods of folding of election mail; canvassing activities which are forbidden within a no canvassing zone; guidance on election activities for candidates, government departments, public opinion research organizations and members of the public; fair and equal treatment of candidates by the print media; and items of expenses to be counted towards election expenses as well as guidelines for mutual aid committees participating in election activities, etc. It can thus be seen that in order to ensure the holding of fair and just elections, EAC has promulgated many rules and regulations over the years, which all candidates, election agents, volunteers and other relevant persons must strictly observe.
However, President, demonstration activities in recent months have resulted in incessant clashes and violent incidents in Hong Kong, with some public figures and members of the public being attacked, some members’ offices being vandalized. All these are really worrying developments.
Elections are a matter for all of us, and we should keep calm and be rational, do not let violence ruin elections. The DC Election this year is faced with unprecedented challenges, and in order to have it successfully held, due regard must be given to the personal safety of voters going to the polling stations as well as that of the polling staff. I sincerely hope that all voters will be able to cast their votes safely, peacefully and free from threat, so that the election results can truly reflect the aspirations of all Hong Kong people.
There are over 4 million registered voters in the DC Election this year, and more than 30% of them are persons aged 61 or above. There have been calls recently on the Internet for obstructing elderly people from voting on the polling day by, for example, taking away their identity cards, making arrangements for them to go on a two days’ trip away from Hong Kong, and even encircling and blocking tourist coaches used for transporting them to and from polling stations. There is indeed no limit to the creativity on the Internet, there have been calls for elderly people not to bring any personal documents, or taking them to public hospitals to wait for accident and emergency services there. The whole purpose is to prevent elderly people from fulfilling their civic responsibility of voting in the election.
In fact, the aforementioned instigating acts, which are unjust, may have constituted a violation of the electoral laws by depriving people who have the right to vote of their original right. Under Article 25 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, every citizen shall have the right and the opportunity to vote and to be elected in elections without unreasonable restrictions. According to media reports, Deputy Programme Coordinator (Clean Elections) of ICAC, Karen HUANG, pointed out that such acts might lead to election fraud, which was liable to a maximum penalty of imprisonment for seven years and a fine of $500,000.
President, the aforementioned ideas for preventing elderly people from voting, if put into practice, will deprive elderly people of their right to vote, but what is more serious, which has come to my attention, is an attempt to deprive other people of their right to serve as volunteers of electioneering teams. Earlier, a candidate set up a street booth in Tung Chung, and a person holding dissenting political views had a quarrel with a volunteer of his electioneering team. The volunteer was subsequently hit and injured by a vehicle driven by that person, and the incident was suspected to be an intentional attack. This has not only posed real life-threatening risks to these volunteers but also an intimidation to electioneering teams of candidates, and will have a direct impact on the fairness of the upcoming election.
President, as I have said at the beginning of my speech, the degree of violence involved in the run-up to the DC Election this year is rarely seen. Petrol bombs were hurled at some candidates engaging in canvassing activities, members’ offices were severely vandalized, electioneering teams campaigning at street booths were mobbed and intimidated, the publicity materials of some candidates were damaged on a large scale, family members and relatives of some candidates were doxxed, threats were made to vandalize the homes of certain candidates, nominators were intimidated, some shops refused to display the publicity posters of certain candidates, and all sorts of tricks have been used. To sum it up, the entire electioneering campaigns have been subject to the threat of black violence, and the most serious case is the incident in which a Legislative Council Member, who is also a candidate running in the DC Election this year, was almost killed in a knife attack. The attack undoubtedly sought to make the candidate disappear completely from the election, or to put it more accurately, make him disappear in this world.
Apart from the personal safety of candidates being under threat, even members’ offices or district service centres have not emerged unscathed, with their communication systems disconnected, resulting in complete shutdown of some offices. One very important part of an electioneering campaign is to come into contact with voters, but according to a video clip circulated on the Internet, a man slapped and swore at an elderly person who was on her way to a member’s office. To my knowledge, many candidates running in the DC Election have been obstructed by people holding dissenting political views when they tried to set up street booths to contact voters. Publicity materials for election purpose including banners and posters have also been repeatedly vandalized, making it impossible for candidates to interact with residents in the community through normal channels and provide services to them. This has also resulted in unfairness in elections.
President, violent atmosphere has been brewing in Hong Kong in recent months, and there were incessant vigilante attacks in public places against people with different political views. Hong Kong people are actually living in the fear of black violence. However, no matter how difficult the situation is, the SAR Government has an unshirkable responsibility to create conditions for voters to come out to vote without fear, so that all voters, regardless of their political opinions, can exercise their right in this respect.
Secretary Patrick NIP pointed out this Monday that it was the Government’s stance to try its best to ensure that the DC Election would be held smoothly as scheduled, so that voters could exercise their right to vote and elect their district representatives. However, he had also made it clear that when it came to the holding of the election in a safe and orderly manner, the Government had no control over the situation, which was in the hands of violent demonstrators on the street. It would not be possible to have the election conducted in a safe and orderly manner if they did not stop. Secretary NIP also set out three conditions for holding the election smoothly on Sunday: Firstly, violence and all kinds of duress should stop; secondly, blocking of tunnels, highways and roads should cease; thirdly, destruction to transport facilities should halt altogether to prevent paralysing the traffic.
Hong Kong has seen the unrestrained use of petrol bombs in recent months, and this must be the most worrying factor for the people of Hong Kong on the polling day. There is a possibility that everyone of us, including staff members on duty in polling stations, citizens on their way to vote, innocent passers-by or the assaulters themselves, will be exposed to the risk of being engulfed by fire. According to the Government, emergency response teams will be set up by the Fire Services Department to timely put out a fire which may break out in any polling station.
The Government has also indicated that it would deploy sufficient manpower, including police officers, Civil Aid Service members and personnel of external security companies, to offer assistance at polling stations, in order to cope with all possible security risks. However, President, I notice that the Government has not announced the actual number of staff members deployed to perform the related tasks, and will there be sufficient personnel to protect the safety of more than 600 polling stations throughout the territory? I can only wait and see what will happen on Sunday. It will of course be most ideal if there is utterly no need for us to invoke any of these contingency plans, our community can return to rationality as soon as possible, and all of us will say no to violence on the upcoming polling day of a democratic district election.
As for the second and the third conditions set out by the Secretary, smooth traffic movements have to be maintained to ensure that over 20 000 polling staff from various districts throughout the territory will arrive at the assigned polling stations on time, so that the operation of all polling stations will begin punctually at 7:30 am. Although the DC Election is a district election, the entire election involves not only voters, candidates, volunteers and electioneering teams but also many polling staff who are responsible for providing logistics support. I therefore absolutely agree with the views expressed by Secretary NIP.
Finally, President, more than five months of social turmoil has not shown any signs of abating, and the DC Election this year will be held amid the storm of the opposition against the proposed legislative amendments. The current chaotic situation in Hong Kong is the result of incitement of young people and the radicals by those with ulterior motives. In order to achieve their hidden objectives, they reverse right and wrong, spread rumours and slanders, glorify and connive at violence, make young people their cannon fodder, and some people have even likened the current incident to a Hong Kong-version Colour Revolution.
Hence, the most pressing task for Hong Kong now is to stop violence, curb disorder and restore order. As a matter of fact, the executive, legislative and judicial branches of the SAR Government as well as every single citizen in Hong Kong are like snow blocks of a snowy mountain, and in order to avoid an avalanche in Hong Kong, we must shoulder the responsibility for curbing and punishing violence in accordance with the law! The voting public should realize that the fate of Hong Kong is hung in the balance, they must come forward bravely to condemn black terror and election violence, and use their votes to curb disorder. I would like to reiterate my hope that the election on Sunday can be held smoothly in a peaceful, fair and safe manner, and that district representatives who do not support violence will be elected.
President, I so submit.