The Legislative Council in Hong Kong. Photo:

Hong Kong’s pan-democrats and academics fear that the government’s proposal to allow mainland-based Hongkongers to vote in the Legislative Council elections next September will result in electoral fraud.

On Tuesday (October 13), Chief Executive Carrie Lam told Shenzhen Satellite TV the government was considering letting Hong Kong people living in the mainland vote in the elections. Lam said there was strong demand for this from Hong Kong society.

As more and more Hong Kong people would move to the mainland, it would be a big problem if these people won’t be able to vote, Lam said, adding that many people could not return to Hong Kong due to the epidemic this year.

Local media including i-Cable TV reported that the Hong Kong government would set up polling stations in Beijing, Shanghai and Guangdong province and deploy electoral officials there, which would be guarded by mainland police.

The government will submit a bill to the LegCo to amend the election rules in November and expects it to be passed by early 2021. There will be no public consultation, reports said.

Holden Chow, a pro-Beijing lawmaker and the vice-chairman of the Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong, said Hong Kong people who worked and lived in the Greater Bay Area should enjoy the rights to vote in the LegCo elections without returning to the special administrative region. Chow said many countries allowed postal and electronic voting.

Democratic Party chairman Wu Chi-wai said the mainland voting scheme was ridiculous because it would result in huge electoral fraud. Wu said Hong Kong’s Independent Commission Against Corruption had no jurisdiction in the mainland if the voting procedures had any problem.

Wu said the government only wanted to change the rules so that the pro-establishment camp would continue to win enough seats to control the LegCo.

Ivan Choy Chi-keung, a senior lecturer and prominent scholar at the Chinese University Hong Kong, said it would be unfair that most pro-democracy candidates were unable to run their election campaigns in the mainland. Choy said if Hong Kong people were allowed to vote from the Greater Bay Area, those who lived in Taiwan and foreign countries should also be granted the same rights.

He added that if the government could not rule out all possible electoral fraud, the credibility of the elections would be undermined.

Last November, about 2.94 million people, or 71% of all registered voters, participated in the District Council elections. The democratic candidates won 390 out of the 452 seats and controlled 17 chairman seats in the 18 districts.

The number of pro-democracy voters amounted to 1.69 million while that of pro-establishment voters was about 1.21 million.

Since 1997, more than a million mainlanders have been granted Hong Kong residency through the one-way permit scheme, which allows up to 150 people per day to move to the territory on family reunion purposes.

At least 165,000 mainlanders moved to Hong Kong between 2004 and 2016 under the Capital Investment Entrant Scheme, the Admission Scheme for Mainland Talents and Professionals and the Immigration Arrangement for Non-local Graduates. Some of these immigrants have moved back to the mainland.

As of the end of last year, about 538,000 Hong Kong people were living in Guangdong province, said the Immigrant Department. However, the pro-establishment camp estimated that the figure has fallen to about 200,000 to 300,000 after many moved back to Hong Kong this year amid the pandemic. It was believed that most of these people were pro-government voters.

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