Legislative Council Election candidate censured for breaching electoral guidelines

The following is issued on behalf of the Electoral Affairs Commission:

     Ms Peck Wan-kam Pamela, a candidate contesting the District Council (second) functional constituency (DC(second)FC) of the Legislative Council Election, was publicly censured by the Electoral Affairs Commission (EAC) today (September 7) for breaching the guidelines as set out in the Guidelines on Election-related Activities in respect of the Legislative Council Election (the Guidelines) that a candidate must ensure the correctness and accuracy of all factual statements in her election advertisements and her failure to earnestly correct her mistake within a reasonable period of time.

     The Returning Officer (RO) of the DC(second)FC has reported to the Commission that she had received numerous complaints since August 6 against Ms Peck Wan-kam Pamela about the misuse of the candidate number "3", rather than the candidate number "803" allocated to her, in her election advertisements suspected to have misled electors.

     The complaints were found substantiated upon investigation by the RO. The RO then requested Ms Peck to take immediate rectification actions by phone and in a letter dated August 8. In her letter of August 9 to the RO, Ms Peck explained that she did not intend to mislead electors by using the candidate number "3" in her election advertisements and the mistake was wholly due to the misunderstanding of her Election Agent. Ms Peck indicated in the aforesaid letter that the situation was expected to be rectified by noon on August 10.
     However, the RO continued to receive complaints against Ms Peck as her election advertisements were still found to show the incorrect candidate number "3". After investigation, the RO found the complaints substantiated and wrote to Ms Peck the second time requesting her to rectify the situation immediately. As complaints continued to roll in, the RO issued a further letter on August 28 requesting Ms Peck to complete the rectification actions before August 30. In the same letter, the RO issued a serious warning against Ms Peck for her breaching of the guidelines as set out in paragraph 8.11 of the Guidelines which stipulates that a candidate must ensure the correctness and accuracy of all factual statements in his or her election advertisements. The RO also informed Ms Peck that the case had been referred to the EAC for consideration of further action.
     The RO sent staff to conduct site visits in the territory on August 31. It was found that there were still over 120 election advertisements of Ms Peck without being rectified (i.e. the incorrect candidate number of "3" being shown on the election advertisements). Ms Peck continued to blatantly breach the guidelines as set out in paragraph 8.11 of the Guidelines by failing to make a genuine effort to rectify the mistake within a reasonable period of time and ignoring the RO's request for rectification.

     Before publishing a censure against Ms Peck, the Commission invited her to make a written representation as to why the censure should not be made. In her representation, Ms Peck explained that not all of her election advertisements had been rectified as her efforts in this regard were constrained by the limited manpower of her election office and the inability of her contractor to rectify each of her election advertisements and there were cases where her corrected election advertisements were wilfully damaged. She further elaborated that no confusion would be caused to electors and no false statement was involved since her election advertisements had clearly shown that she was contesting in the DC(second)FC. She also stated that she should not be singled out for public censure because she alleged that similar situations also occurred in other functional constituencies. Moreover, she pointed out that the announcement arrangements after the lot-drawing to allocate candidate numbers were unsatisfactory.

     "After careful consideration of the RO's investigation result of the complaints and Ms Peck's representation, the EAC considers her explanations not sufficiently convincing to exculpate her," a spokesman for the EAC said.

     "As evidenced by the large number of complaints received by the RO against Ms Peck (20 cases so far), the misuse of candidate number '3' in her election advertisements has already caused considerable confusion to electors. Bearing in mind that the large number of electors of the DC(second)FC, which is a single constituency covering the whole territory, is enormous and that most of the electors overlap with those of the geographical constituencies, the impact will be more far-reaching if there is misuse of a candidate number in the DC(second)FC. This is especially so when a candidate list of the DC(second)FC has been allocated around 1,200 designated spots to display election advertisements of banners all over the territory. It is also noted that no complaints relating to other functional constituencies in this regard had been received by the EAC.

     "When the candidate numbers were determined after lot-drawing, the candidate numbers were displayed by the RO at a whiteboard for the scrutiny of the candidates and the media and the relevant record clearly shows that the candidate number allocated to Ms Peck was '803'.

     "The Commission is most disappointed that Ms Peck had chosen to ignore the verbal and written requests of the RO for making good all her election advertisements with the incorrect candidate number within a reasonable period of time. It is unforgivable that she blatantly breached the Guidelines and made various excuses about her mistakes in her representation. The Commission considers her attitude regrettable and that she should be publicly censured," he said.

     The spokesman reminded candidates that they should strictly abide by electoral guidelines and relevant legislation and co-operate with the Commission and the departments concerned to ensure the election will be conducted in a fair, open, honest and clean manner.

Ends/Friday, September 7, 2012
Issued at HKT 20:37