The government has launched a public consultation on ways to improve the electoral arrangements in relation to District Council and Legislative Council elections in future.
Following recommendations made by the Electoral Affairs Commission, the Legco’s Panel on Constitutional Affairs, and the community at large, a review is being conducted on some rules and procedures in preparation for the next election cycle, the government said on Monday.
A consultation paper has been released on the matter, and the public is invited to give their opinions, it said.
Citizens can send in their views by mail, fax or email by Dec. 29, according to a press release.
According to the consultation paper, the government wants to obtain public opinions on three main issues, the Hong Kong Economic Journal reports.
The first one is about the regulation of electoral advertisements through Internet, including social media.
The government proposes to introduce a specific exemption to protect a third party (individuals or groups that are neither the relevant candidates whose elections are being promoted or prejudiced nor their election expense agents) from inadvertently breaching electoral laws while expressing their views on an election online.
The second issue is regulation on election surveys conducted outside the No Canvassing Zone, including whether the announcement or disclosure of the election survey results on the election day should be regulated before the poll ends and whether it is necessary to set a cooling-off period before the election day and ban publication of opinion polls or election forecasts during the period.
As for the third issue, it pertains to the polling hours.
The government proposes to shorten the hours a bit so that the counting could start and finish early and the public will be able to know the results early as well.
Currently the polling lasts for 15 hours, from 7.30 am to 10.30 pm. The government plans to cut the voting period by 30 minutes or one hour by changing either the start time or/and the end time.
Secretary for Constitutional and Mainland Affairs Patrick Nip Tak-kuen said the government will communicate with all political parties before any decision is made to ensure fair and open electoral arrangements as well as balanced freedom of speech.
Democratic Party lawmaker Andrew Wan Siu-kin said he prefers to see polling hours shortened by putting off the start time rather make the end time earlier.
Such arrangement will cause less inconvenience for voters, he said.
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