Govt tweaks election rules to protect DC candidates' privacy

October 09, 2019 18:39
Starting from the upcoming DC elections, a candidate's principal residential address in copies of the nomination form for the public will be covered. Photo: HKEJ

The nomination period for this year’s District Council elections kicked off last Friday.

Over the years, candidates for both the District Council and Legislative Council elections are required by the Registration and Electoral Office (REO) to put their personal information in their nomination forms, and that includes their principal residential address.

Their nomination forms, along with their personal data, are then made availableonline for public reference, although some of their personal information are covered.

However, there has been a growing concern among those who intend to run for DC or Legco seats, particularly among the “political rookies”, who fear that making their residential address and other personal data available to the public may put them at risk as such information could be taken advantage of by people with malicious intent.

It is said that such privacy concerns have discouraged some young political hopefuls from signing up for the elections as they fear their private information will be compromised under the current practice.

To address their concerns, pan-democrat wrote to Secretary for Constitutional and Mainland Affairs Patrick Nip Tak-kuen last month urging him to review the relevant regulation and consider making revisions.

And quite to the pan-dem’s surprise, Nip has taken immediate action to address the problem.

As a result, the authorities have quickly fine-tuned the policy. Starting from the upcoming DC elections, candidates will still need to provide personal information such as residential address and copies of their nomination forms will still be made available on the internet. However, their principal residential addresses in the copies for the public will be blacked out.

Some community figures are still not satisfied with such small tweaks as they aren’t enough to protect the candidates' privacy. Under section 22 of the Electoral Affairs Commission (Electoral Procedure) (District Councils) Regulation, the name and principal residential address of “each validly nominated candidate” will still be gazetted within 14 days after the end of the nomination period.

In other words, even if a candidate’s principal residential address is blacked out in the spare copies of their nomination form, such information can still be found in the government gazette.

It is understood that in its recent reply to the pan-dem, the government expressed clearly that authorities are now studying how to plug the loophole.

If necessary, the government will propose a revision of the regulation, and hopefully, the matter will be put to rest before the 2020 Legco elections.

This article appeared in the Hong Kong Economic Journal on Oct 1

Translation by Alan Lee with additional reporting

[Chinese version 中文版]

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Columnist of Hong Kong Economic Journal.