Arts groups, including the visual arts group STRA, may have lost their eligibility to vote in the Sports, Performing Arts, Culture and Publication constituency in the Legislative Council elections.
STRA received a notification from the Registration and Electoral Office this week, after the government updated its gazette last Friday, about half a month before the elections on September 4.
While the government’s gazette published in 2013 retained STRA on the list of groups and individuals recognised under the Hong Kong Arts Development Council, it can no longer be found in the 2016 publication. The Hong Kong Government Gazette is an official document for publishing announcements and regulations.
Clara Cheung, a member of STRA, said on a programme on Commercial Radio: “We called before May 2 especially to ask the electoral office to make sure that the group still has the vote for the constituency… before May 2, we verified that we had a vote and were very relaxed… why has it changed suddenly? In the end, it was actually because of the gazette published on August 12.”
Cheung said STRA did not register again with the council this year as the group did not hold any artistic events in the last three years. However, the group is planning on submitting documents to verify their eligibility “because STRA received funds from the Arts Development Council within the past six years,” said Cheung, adding that the group is already eligible. The electoral office told her that they would follow up on the matter as soon as possible, she said.
Ming Pao said that at least 35 groups or individuals recognised in 2013 were no longer recognised in 2016.
Groups can appeal to retain their rights to vote by submitting relevant documents to the electoral office by Monday, according to the letter sent to Cheung.
‘There should not be updates’
Ma Fung-kwok, who is the representative for the constituency and is seeking reelection, said: “I think it is two things… because the gazette that was just released was talking about the [Arts Development Council’s] elections of council members at the end of October… the list of eligible voters for the Legislative Council elections should have been processed by the electoral office a while ago, according to the Arts Development Council’s list of qualified groups.” He spoke on the same programme as Cheung.
“This year’s qualified voters should have been gazetted beforehand… so things should be done according to that, and there should not be updates [to voter qualifications],” added Ma.
Adrian Chow, who is running for the same constituency, told Ming Pao that since voter registration ended on May 2, and the electoral office had already verified their eligibility, “it makes people wonder whether the electoral office will use other reasons to disqualify other voters.”
Cheung also told HK01 that the electoral office sent her the letter on Saturday, a day after the updated gazette. She said that they were “very fast” and everything seems a little “shady.”