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LCQ12 : Voter Registration System

     Following is a question by the Hon Wong Kwok-kin and a written reply by the Secretary for Constitutional and Mainland Affairs, Mr Raymond Tam, in the Legislative Council today (May 30):


     In recent years, economic cooperation between Hong Kong and the Mainland has become more frequent, and transportation between these two places is very convenient, and quite a number of Hong Kong permanent residents have chosen to settle or work on the Mainland. Some of them reside or work on the Mainland for a prolonged period, thus not meeting the eligibility criterion of an elector that he "ordinarily resides in Hong Kong" and cannot register as electors in Hong Kong. In this connection, will the Government inform this Council:

(a) in the past three years, of the number of voter registration (VR) applications lodged by Hong Kong permanent residents who resided or worked on the Mainland but had a place of residence in Hong Kong; the respective numbers of those whose VR applications had been accepted and rejected; the vetting and approval procedures of the authorities for such applications;

(b) whether, under the existing VR system, the authorities will consider allowing Hong Kong permanent residents who work in Hong Kong but reside on the Mainland to provide, in addition to their own residential addresses, their employers' company addresses or friends' residential addresses in Hong Kong as their correspondence addresses for receiving letters issued by the Registration and Electoral Office upon submission of new VR applications by them; if they will, how they will proceed to verify the residential addresses of registered electors; if not, the reasons for that;

(c) whether the authorities allow Hong Kong permanent residents working in Hong Kong but residing on the Mainland to register as eligible electors, so as to enable them to vote at the various elections in Hong Kong as well as exercise their civic rights and fulfil their responsibilities; if so, of the criteria and procedures for vetting and approving their VR applications; if not, the reasons for that; and

(d) whether the authorities will allow persons who have registered as eligible electors but are residing on the Mainland to return to Hong Kong during elections to vote; if so, of the relevant arrangements and details; if not, the reasons for that?



     According to section 28 of the Legislative Council Ordinance (Cap. 542) (LCO), a person is not eligible to be registered as an elector in a geographical constituency unless, at the time of applying for registration, the person ordinarily resides in Hong Kong and the residential address notified in the person's application for registration is his only or principal residence in Hong Kong.

     Whether a person "ordinarily resides" in Hong Kong is to be determined on a case-by-case basis having regard to the actual circumstances of each case and past judicial decisions.

     In general, if a Hong Kong Permanent Resident has left Hong Kong to reside in other jurisdictions without maintaining connections with Hong Kong, the person may be considered as not ordinarily residing in Hong Kong. On the other hand, if a Hong Kong Permanent Resident used to reside in Hong Kong for a long time in the past but has left Hong Kong for personal reasons, but still returns to Hong Kong regularly to pursue a life here (for example, for work or family reunion), then to a certain extent, that person still maintains a reasonable connection with Hong Kong. If he can also provide a residential address which is his only or principal residence in Hong Kong for voter registration, then whether the person satisfies the statutory requirement of "ordinarily residing in Hong Kong" is to be determined on a case-by-case basis in light of the actual circumstances of the case. If the Registration and Electoral Office (REO) receives any enquiries or complaints in this regard, it will consider the details and facts of the case carefully, and will seek legal advice if necessary.

     As regards the questions of the Hon Wong Kwok-kin, our reply is as follows:

(a) As an applicant does not need to indicate in the application form for voter registration whether he/she resides or lives in the Mainland, the REO does not have the requested information. According to current legislation, a person has to provide a true and accurate residential address in Hong Kong for the purposes of voter registration, and such address has to be the person's only or principal residence in Hong Kong. The person commits an offence if he/she provides a false address, or if the address is not his/her only or principal residence in Hong Kong.

(b) and (c) According to current legislation, an applicant has to satisfy the Electoral Registration Officer that he/she ordinarily resides in Hong Kong and has to provide an address which is his/her only or principal residence in Hong Kong. The applicant is not eligible for registration as an elector of a geographical constituency if the above requirements are not fulfilled.

     Moreover, under the prevailing arrangements, the REO will consider permitting an elector to use another address as his correspondence address to receive election-related letters only if his residential address is not covered by postal services.

     According to current legislation, any Hong Kong Permanent Resident applying for registration as an elector of a geographical constituency, regardless of his place of work, has to fulfill the relevant requirements under section 28 of the LCO. Otherwise, the REO will not process his/her application.

(d) According to current legislation, persons whose names are set out in the current Final Register are in general eligible to vote in the relevant constituency in subsequent elections. The REO will assign the constituency and polling stations according to an elector's registered residential address in Hong Kong. However, if an elector no longer resides in Hong Kong or if he no longer has an only or principal residence in Hong Kong, he may no longer meet the statutory eligibility requirements for voter registration and may thereby be disqualified from voting. Therefore, he should update the REO with the most updated information for necessary follow up.

Ends/Wednesday, May 30, 2012