Hong Kong’s anti-corruption watchdog has received 201 pursuable complaints as of last Thursday, less than two weeks ahead of Sunday’s District Council elections.
The Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC) said on Wednesday that 67 of the allegations involved the use of force or threats against candidates or prospective candidates running for election, marking a dramatic increase in the number of complaints from previous years.
Karen Huang, ICAC’s community relations officer, said the commission was aware of online calls to prevent elderly people from voting. Methods used in the past have included taking away elderly people’s identity cards, sending them abroad and obstructing vehicles transporting them to polling stations on election day.
She said such attempts might constitute electoral fraud and is an offence punishable by up to seven years in prison and a HK$500,000 fine.
The bussing of elderly people from care homes to polling stations remains controversial in Hong Kong. In previous years, senior voters have been seen carrying small paper notes with them into booths or with candidate numbers written on their palms. They have also been seen accompanied by caretakers who indicate who to vote for. These practices have typically been associated with pro-Beijing candidates.
Huang added that there are around 4.1 million registered voters in Hong Kong – over 30 per cent of whom are over 61 years old.
The Electoral Affairs Commission Chair Barnabas Fung on Tuesday announced a series of contingency measures. He said that if public safety is compromised at a polling station, the station may be temporarily suspended for 90 minutes and its closing time extended accordingly.
But if a station is suspended for more than 90 minutes, the elections will be postponed until December 1, Fung said. He added that only the chief executive can decide whether to cancel the elections.
Fung said that there are 610 polling stations, four of which have been relocated in light of recent protests. Two of the relocations concerned the stations at the Chinese University of Hong Kong (CUHK) and the Hong Kong Community College’s Hung Hom campus , which is close to Hong Kong Polytechnic University (PolyU).
Both CUHK and PolyU have been the epicentre of days-long clashes between police and protesters since last Monday. As of Wednesday noon, restoration work was underway at CUHK, whilst PolyU remained on lockdown as police encircled dozens of protesters inside the campus.
On Tuesday, Chief Executive Carrie Lam said the government was committed to holding the elections but added that whether voting could take place, would depend on whether protesters refrained from causing disruptions.
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