Web plan dumped by electoral commission

Updated: 2011-06-24 06:47

By Joseph Li(HK Edition)

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The Electoral Affairs Commission (EAC) has abruptly scrapped its proposal to regulate electioneering activities on websites.

The announcement came a month after public consultation began, revealing the guideline was unpopular, unrealistic and hard to execute.

The EAC on Thursday published guidelines on subsector elections of the Election Committee to be held in December and the 2012 Legislative Council (LegCo) geographical constituency elections.

After highlighting the contents of the two sets of election guidelines at a media conference, EAC Chairman Barnabas Fung said the proposed guidelines to regulate online electioneering activities announced in May will not be implemented.

Most of the written submissions and oral submissions at an open forum strongly opposed the proposal to extend existing regulations covering TV and radio stations to online media, he disclosed.

Radio and TV stations use public broadcasting band widths that are public assets while the Internet is a totally open platform on which everyone can broadcast programs, he said.

He added there is no consensus on regulation of online electioneering activities.

After careful consideration, the EAC decided to drop the proposal, he said.

On the LegCo election, Fung said the five geographical constituencies will remain unchanged. A total of 35 seats will be returned, with six seats for Hong Kong Island (-1), five seats each for Kowloon West (no change) and Kowloon East (-1), nine seats apiece for New Territories (NT) West (-1) and NT East (-2).

He said the allocation of seats is based on the population of the five constituencies. Though NT West has a bigger population than NT East, it gains only one new seat because the law specifies the number of seats in each constituency as five to nine.

The EAC had considered remapping the geographical constituencies, he said, but concluded the current arrangement is the best proposal.

Tam Yiu-chung, chairman of Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong, said he is generally pleased with the unchanged delineation arrangement because most political parties want to stay put.

On a strict population basis, NT West should have 10 seats, he said. But there are worries that the 10th candidate may get fewer than 5 percent of the valid votes and forfeit his deposit despite being elected.

As to scrapping the proposals on regulation of online electioneering activities, Tam said he feels the authorities may not have thought it over carefully at the start.

China Daily

(HK Edition 06/24/2011 page1)