|LCQ2: Inspection of election returns and writing down of the particulars
Following is a question by Hon Sin Chung-kai and an oral reply by the Secretary for Constitutional Affairs, Mr Stephen Lam, in the Legislative Council today (April 25):
I have received quite a number of complaints from the public that recently, when they went to the Registration and Electoral Office ("REO") to inspect the returns lodged by the Chief Executive ("CE") election candidates in respect of their election expenses and election donations, they were only allowed to read but not write down the particulars. In this connection, will the Government inform this Council whether:
(a) REO had allowed members of the public to write down the particulars of the candidates' returns in the past; if so, of the reasons for adopting a different practice for the CE election held recently;
(b) it is an offence for members of the public to write down the particulars of the returns lodged by candidates; if so, of the details of the relevant provisions; if not, whether it will consider letting members of the public to do so; and
(c) it will consider uploading copies of the returns lodged by CE election candidates onto a government web site, so as to facilitate public inspection of the particulars therein; if it will, when it will be implemented; if not, of the reasons for that?
The reply to Hon Sin Chung-kai's question is as follows:
(a) and (b) According to the Elections (Corrupt and Illegal Conduct) Ordinance (Cap. 554), the Registration and Electoral Office ("REO") must keep at its office the election returns lodged by candidates, and make copies available for public inspection, within one year after the publication of the election result. The public may also ask for a copy of an election return or part of a return, and obtain it subject to payment of a copying fee. Since there is no explicit provision in the law which allows the public to write down the particulars when inspecting the election returns or which prohibits them from doing so, the REO took a more cautious approach in the past and did not allow the public to write down the particulars. However, in the light of the views recently expressed by the public on such practice, the REO has, after thorough considerations, relaxed the arrangements, and allowed the public inspecting the election returns to write down the particulars.
(c) At present, the REO has not arranged for copies of the election return forms to be placed on the website. The present arrangements, whereby the public may inspect the election returns kept at the office of the REO, write down the particulars and obtain copies, have already provided adequate transparency and are in line with the statutory requirements. As to whether such arrangements will be made in future, the matter requires further consideration. If any such arrangements are to be made, they must comply with the provisions of the Personal Data (Privacy) Ordinance.
Ends/Wednesday, April 25, 2007