Behind the curtain: Negative effect of ban on calling on others to cast a blank vote worries pro-establishment

Published (HKT): 2021.04.20 09:48

The government announced the Improving Electoral System (Consolidated Amendments) Bill early on. The content of the Bill is contentious beyond any question, but the most controversial part is the penalty newly added: it is a criminal offence to incite another person not to cast a vote, or to cast a blank or invalid vote during election period; anyone committing this offence is subject to a maximum penalty of three years. A source from the legal profession pointed out that not only are counsels unable to make head or tail of the legal principle behind it, but also some pro-establishment figures query in private whether the Hong Kong government really wanted to hamper the citizens from casting a blank vote with this penalty.

The source from the legal profession said that actually “Whatever they please” is the response from the public to the legislation by the Hong Kong government to ban people from inciting others not to cast a vote or to cast a blank vote. However, as what some jurisprudents and barristers said that now that it is a must to introduce the legislation, “they have to give a clear account for the reason for the legislation, state clearly under what circumstances will an individual spoil an election if he/she calls on another person to cast a blank vote or not to cast a vote, and answer the questions why calling on another person to do something that is not a criminal offence is a criminal offence and what kind of reasoning the government upholds”. “So far, no one has come forward to elaborate on it with clarity.”

Another source from the political circle indicated that notwithstanding the pro-establishment camp bound to back up the “improvement” of the electoral arrangement, some among them have a different opinion on the government billing in a fanfare of publicity that it is a criminal offence to incite another person not to cast a vote, or to cast a blank vote. He cited what Felix Chung Kwok-pan, chieftain of the Liberal Party, said on a radio channel that maybe the original intent of the government was to hamper pro-democracy activists from mobilizing the citizens to take part in another campaign similar to “35+”, but it is possible that what the government has done “paves the road to hell with good intentions”, hence bringing about negative effects to stimulate the citizens to cast a blank vote. “Some pro-establishment figures are of the similar view, deeming it so puzzling for the government to state that casting a blank vote is not a criminal offence on the one hand; on the other hand, declare that calling on another person to cast a blank vote is in violation of law.” From the fact that netizens keep teasing about it, obviously the negative effects have emerged. “So, a source from the pro-establishment camp said that he’s really perplexed by how the government officials come up with policies, as they are always creating negative effects.”

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