Multiple controversies arise on eve of Hong Kong legislative election

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Tuesday, September 6, 2016

On Saturday, as the citizens of Hong Kong prepared to vote in Sunday's legislative election, multiple controversies broke out concerning different candidates and the fairness of the election overall. Following suspensions on Friday, another candidate, Kwan Wing-yip of the Neo Democrats, suspended his campaign; the head of the Electoral Affairs Commission responded to questions about the logistics of the ballots; a report surfaced concerning Chinese-funded companies calling their Hong Kong employees to vote for pro-Beijing or pro-establishment candidates; and allegations were made that localist party Youngspiration has ties with Beijing.

After six pan-democratic candidates suspended their campaigns on Friday, another candidate from the camp, Neo Democrats' Kwan Wing-yip of the District Council (Second) functional constituency, announced the suspension of his campaign. He stated that after other pan-democrats suspended their campaigns aiming to boost other pan-democratic candidates, members of his party experienced great pressure regarding the suspension of his candidacy. He also said it was a "difficult decision," and the "darkest day" in his political life.

The head of the Electoral Affairs Commission, Barnabus Fung Wah, responded to reports about the logistics of the ballot papers, saying that allowing the director of each polling station to take the ballot papers home and bring them to the polling stations on election day is more sound than trusting couriers. He also addressed concerns by the pro-Beijing or pro-establishment camp, such as pro-Beijing news outlet Wen Wei Po and pro-Beijing party Federation of Trade Unions, accusing the pan-democratic candidates' campaign suspensions of undermining democracy and proposing to report the incidents to the Independent Commission Against Corruption. Fung Wah addressed them by saying that because the candidates can't drop out from the ballot paper after the nomination period by law, the candidates suspending their campaigns would not affect the election's fairness.

Early Saturday morning Hong Kong Time, Reuters reported the Hong Kong employees of Chinese-funded companies were being asked to vote for pro-Beijing candidates in the election. The companies include Bank of China and China Resources Land, who according to the report showed a list of pro-Beijing candidates to vote for, and for Bank of China the employees were asked to call their managers after they have cast their votes. When asked by Reuters about the matter, Bank of China responded that it "supports and respects" the right of its employees to vote, while no response was immediately forthcoming from China Resources Land.

pro-Beijing figure Lau Nai-keung

Meanwhile, after claiming Hong Kong's chief executive CY Leung and the Chinese central government's Hong Kong liaison office encouraged Hong Kong independence for the past few days, Sing Pao reported the new localist party Youngspiration has ties with pro-Beijing figure Lau Nai-keung. Youngspiration responded by stating its members do not know Lau Nai-keung personally or the pro-Beijing organisation "Hong Kong Community Network" mentioned in Sing Pao's article, and challenged the newspaper to "present its evidence" regarding the group's alleged ties to Beijing, saying accusing them without evidence "violates media ethics."

Justice Alliance Party candidate Leticia Lee

Pan-democratic Democratic Party candidate Lam Cheuk-ting said he received confirmation from the Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC) that they were investigating pro-establishment Justice Alliance Party candidate Leticia Lee for bribery. The pro-establishment group "Alliance in Support of Our Police Force" held a dinner on August 31, and it was reported Leticia Lee took part on stage during the lucky draw, and encouraged its members to vote for herself.

Before Saturday, the election was already controversial, with the Electoral Affairs Commission barring pro-independence candidates from running, and Liberal Party candidate Ken Chow Wing-kan of the New Territories West constituency unexpectedly suspending his campaign due to unspecified "threats." The 2016 Hong Kong legislative election, the sixth since the former British colony's transfer of sovereignty to China, was held on Sunday, electing 70 legislators to the Legislative Council.


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