EAC's online briefing on guidelines and legislation for 2022 Legislative Council Election Committee constituency by-election (with photos/video)

The following is issued on behalf of the Electoral Affairs Commission:
     The Chairman of the Electoral Affairs Commission (EAC), Mr Justice David Lok, conducted an online briefing tonight (November 28) for the candidates of the 2022 Legislative Council Election Committee constituency (ECC) by-election on the electoral arrangements for the by-election, the guidelines on election-related activities and important points to note in running their election campaigns.
     "The poll for the 2022 Legislative Council ECC by-election will be conducted on December 18 to fill four vacancies in the membership of the Legislative Council ECC. The Returning Officer received a total of six nomination forms by the close of the nomination period on November 14. The Candidate Eligibility Review Committee published the notice of valid nominations in the Gazette on November 26 to declare that all nominations in the by-election are valid. As the number of validly nominated candidates is more than four, a poll will be held on December 18," said Mr Justice Lok at the briefing.
     "The Returning Officer drew lots last Friday (November 25) to determine the candidate number of each candidate on the ballot paper and the designated spots of election advertisements allocated to the candidates. The candidate numbers of the validly nominated candidates have been promulgated in the notice of valid nominations.
     "The EAC will strive to ensure that the election will be conducted in an open, fair and honest manner as in the past," he said.
     Mr Justice Lok explained the arrangements for polling and counting of votes in the by-election:
Polling stations and polling arrangements
     The Registration and Electoral Office (REO) will set up an ECC polling station at the Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre (HKCEC) in Wan Chai for Election Committee (EC) members to cast their votes. Polling hours are from 9am to 11.30am.
     "To reduce the risk of the spread of COVID-19, the REO has assigned five suggested time slots to the EC members according to the EC sectors to which they belong. The relevant information will be sent to the EC members by mail later. We encourage EC members to vote at the ECC polling station according to the suggested time slot," said Mr Justice Lok.
     The Electronic Poll Register system will continue to be used for issuing ballot papers at the polling station for more efficient and accurate issuance of ballot papers. The EC members need to present the original of their Hong Kong permanent identity card or other specified alternative documents to the polling staff for collecting ballot papers. Adopting the "block vote" voting system, each EC member must elect exactly four candidates, or the ballot paper is regarded as invalid. The four candidates who obtain the greatest number of votes shall be returned in the by-election. EC members may use optical mark recognition (OMR) machines set up at the ECC polling station to verify whether the relevant ovals on the ballot paper next to four candidates are filled in. The OMR machines will never record or count EC members' choices marked on their ballot papers. It is entirely a voluntary decision for EC members to use the OMR machines.
     "EC members must put the unfolded ballot paper into the envelope provided at the polling station and then insert it into the white ballot box," said Mr Justice Lok.
     Mr Justice Lok emphasised in the briefing that the ballot is autonomous and secret. It is an offence for any person to use force or duress against another person, or offer an advantage to other persons, with a view to inducing the latter to vote or not to vote for a particular candidate. Also, no one is required to disclose which candidate(s) he/she has voted for or is going to vote for. Canvassing activities are forbidden inside polling stations. Using electronic devices for communication, taking photographs, or making videos or audio recordings in the polling stations is an offence.
Measures in response to COVID-19
     Amidst the impact of the COVID-19 epidemic, the EAC will try its utmost to ensure EC members to exercise their right to vote. The REO will implement a number of measures to prevent the spread of the virus in the polling and counting stations. All persons, including EC members, candidates and their agents entering the polling station and central counting station (including the media centre), must undergo temperature checking. EC members with fever or respiratory symptoms will be directed to a special voting compartment to vote. If the candidates or their agents have symptoms, they will not be permitted to enter the polling stations, and they may assign other agents as replacements to observe the polling process.
     Due to anti-epidemic and social distancing requirements, more than 70 ballot paper issuing desks and around 100 voting compartments will be set up at the ECC polling station to allow EC members to finish voting more quickly.
     Mr Justice Lok said, "At present, there is no electoral law requiring electors to use the 'LeaveHomeSafe' mobile application and meet the requirements of the Vaccine Pass when entering polling stations, but we encourage the EC members to use the 'LeaveHomeSafe' app and observe the requirements of the Vaccine Pass when entering the polling stations. However, whether the EC members use the 'LeaveHomeSafe' or not will not affect their voting rights. We also encourage candidates and their agents to use the 'LeaveHomeSafe' app when entering the polling station.
     "Concerning the arrangements in the central counting station (including the media centre) where no voting rights implications are involved, all entrants except the exempted persons must use the 'LeaveHomeSafe' app and comply with the requirements of the Vaccine Pass."
     To cater for EC members who are unable to cast their votes at the ECC polling station on the polling day due to local isolation or quarantine measures, similar to the Chief Executive Election held in May this year, the REO will set up a polling station at the Penny's Bay Community Isolation Facility to allow EC members to cast their votes from 9am to 10.30am.
     The REO will continue to maintain close liaison with the Health Bureau and Centre for Health Protection of the Department of Health to monitor the epidemic's development and make assessments and appropriate arrangements based on the latest situations.
Counting arrangements and election result announcement
     Central counting arrangements with the use of an OMR system will be adopted to count all votes in this by-election. After the close of polls, all ballot boxes will be delivered to the central counting station at the HKCEC. Candidates, election agents and counting agents may observe the counting of votes in the counting zone. After the completion of the count, the Returning Officer will announce the election result at the media centre.
     Members of the public can observe the count in the counting zone and watch the announcement of election result in the public galleries of the central counting station and media centre respectively. The REO will arrange a maximum of 130 members of the public to enter the public galleries on a first-come, first-served basis until full capacity. Details of the admission arrangement will be published on the election website (www.elections.gov.hk) at a later time.
     Mr Justice Lok also touched on the electoral laws and other provisions in the Guidelines on Election-related Activities:
Election expenses and election advertisements
     According to the Elections (Corrupt and Illegal Conduct) Ordinance (Cap. 554), election expenses mean the expenses in promoting or prejudicing the election of a candidate. To ensure that the candidates compete on a level playing field and within a reasonable level of expenditures, the statutory maximum amount of election expenses that a candidate of the ECC can incur is $213,000. It is an offence for a candidate to incur election expenses in excess of the prescribed maximum limit.
      "Only the candidate and his/her authorised election expense agents could incur election expenses. It is an offence for any person other than the candidate or his/her authorised election expense agents to incur election expenses at or in connection with election. Election expense agents can incur election expenses only after the Returning Officer has received the authorisation form," said Mr Justice Lok.
     A candidate is required to submit an election return to the REO no later than 60 days after the gazettal of the election result. The election return must set out all the election expenses incurred by the candidate or his/her authorised persons, and all electoral donations received.
     Candidates can make use of election advertisements to promote themselves to electors during the election. The candidate is required to submit a copy of any election advertisements, display permission, consent of support and the relevant information to the Returning Officer or upload them onto the Central Platform or the Candidate's Platform for public inspection within one working day after publication of the election advertisements. It is an offence if a candidate fails to comply with the regulation.
Election meetings
     In accordance with the Elections (Corrupt and Illegal Conduct) Ordinance, an election meeting is a meeting held to promote or prejudice the election of a particular candidate or particular candidates. Expenses incurred before, during or after the election on account of an election meeting organised for any of the purposes stated above are election expenses.
     If the event or meeting is of a regular nature (such as regular meetings and festive celebrations), and there is no promotion of a particular candidate or particular candidates, the event or meeting is not regarded as an electioneering activity if it is not for the purpose of promoting or prejudicing the election of a particular candidate or particular candidates.
     However, candidates should act cautiously and avoid the possibility of unnecessary doubts. For example, if someone canvasses for him/her during the event or meeting, the candidate should immediately stop the canvassing and state that he/she is not involved, or even leave. Otherwise, it could be regarded as an election meeting, and the candidate must estimate and declare the relevant election expenses by himself/herself.
Supplementary information
     The Legislative Council election (including this by-election) is governed by the relevant electoral laws and the Guidelines on Election-related Activities in respect of the Legislative Council Election (Guidelines) formulated by the EAC in October 2021. The EAC also issued supplementary information to the Guidelines in October 2022. It mainly points out the criminal sanctions under subsisting law if candidates fail to comply with the requirements relating to the publication of election advertisements and reminds candidates and their supporters to take into account the needs of visually impaired persons when using loudspeakers in electioneering activities.
Clean election
     Pursuant to the law, it is an offence if a person uses force or duress against another person or by obstruction to affect the voting of EC members at the election. If any suspected illegal or non-compliance case is found, the EAC will refer it to law enforcement agencies for follow-up investigation and appropriate action.
     Information on the by-election is available on the election website (www.elections.gov.hk).

Ends/Monday, November 28, 2022
Issued at HKT 20:22