Opinion / Op-Ed Contributors

'Referendum' has too many votes to be credible

By Lau Nai-Keung (China Daily) Updated: 2014-06-26 07:34

The 6.22 "civil referendum," organized by the Public Opinion Program (POP) at the University of Hong Kong and the Center for Social Policy Studies at the Hong Kong Polytechnic University on behalf of the secretariat of the "Occupy Central" campaign, is now a complete mess. Even before physical voting began on June 22, close to 600,000 online votes had already been cast in the preceding two days.

According to data released by the POP, 381,165 Hongkongers voted for the "referendum" on day one, and a further 172,833 voted on day two. It is worth noting that the numbers released are never consistent. According to the POP website the number of votes in the first two days added up to 553,998, but the foreign media consistently inflate the numbers, with Deutsche Welle for example, reporting that more than 603,000 votes were cast in the same period. Why did they get it wrong? What was the source of their data? Did POP "adjust" the numbers downwards after the news was released?

Even assuming the numbers are largely consistent, let's put the number of the votes in perspective. Hong Kong has a population of 7.2 million people. About 3.5 million people registered to vote in the last official elections in 2012. The number of people who did in fact vote during that election was 1.8 million. Given that the "referendum" is considered by many Hongkongers to be illegal and appeals only to radical dissidents, the number of votes reportedly cast is inconsistent. The whole thing is suspicious.

The "referendum" will be a joke if the total turnout is higher than the number of residents in Hong Kong at the end of the 10-day voting period. This is not unlikely given the chaotic setup of the "referendum" systems and procedures. But I suspect everything will turn out fine for "Occupy Central" - as it cooks the numbers anyway it chooses.

The poll lacks credibility. The electronic voting system has many obvious loopholes, which some Chinese-language media have reported in detail. However foreign and local English media have deliberately and shamelessly remained silent with regards to these shortcomings.

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