Following is the speech (English translation) by the Secretary for Constitutional and Mainland Affairs, Mr Stephen Lam, in moving the Second Reading of the Voting by Imprisoned Persons Bill in the Legislative Council meeting today (May 6):
I move that the Voting by Imprisoned Persons Bill be read the second time.
In December 2008, the High Court handed down a judgment on three judicial review cases on prisoners' voting right. The Court ruled that the existing across-the-board restrictions on prisoners' right to be registered as electors and to vote under the Legislative Council Ordinance were unconstitutional. Arrangements should be made to enable prisoners and remanded unconvicted persons to vote on the election day.
In order to take forward the Court's judgment on the judicial review cases, the Administration launched a public consultation exercise on prisoners’ voting right from February to March 2009.
A majority of the views received during the consultation exercise considered that the right to vote is a fundamental political right and that prisoners should be given the right to be registered as electors and to vote regardless of the crimes they have committed.
There are also views that as persons convicted of election-related or bribery offences are already penalised for the offences they have committed by, for example, serving their sentences of imprisonment, the existing disqualification of those persons from being registered as electors and from voting is unfair as it imposes additional penalty on them.
We also note that in a large number of overseas countries including Austria, Sweden, Switzerland, Denmark, Ireland, Iceland, Finland, Canada, Japan, South Africa and Israel, there is no restriction on prisoners' voting right.
Having regard to the above considerations, we now introduce into the Legislative Council the Voting by Imprisoned Persons Bill which amends the existing restrictions on prisoners' voting right.
Aim of the Bill
The Bill aims to remove the existing disqualification of prisoners and persons convicted of election-related or bribery offences from being registered as electors and from voting under the Legislative Council Ordinance.
It also provides for similar amendments to the relevant disqualification provisions under the Chief Executive Election Ordinance, the District Councils Ordinance and the Village Representative Election Ordinance.
Separately, the Electoral Affairs Commission together with the relevant law enforcement agencies are working out the practical voting arrangements for prisoners, remanded unconvicted persons and detainees and will introduce amendments to the relevant electoral regulations within this legislative session.
President, the relevant legislative amendments ensure that prisoners' voting right will be implemented under a consistent and integral legal framework with appropriate polling and security arrangements.
With these remarks, I would like to appeal to Members to support the Bill.
Thank you, President.
Ends/Wednesday, May 6, 2009