Frequently Asked Questions: Consultation Draft for Hong Kong Parliamentary Election Regulations and Mobile Voting Procedures
The Hong Kong Parliament Election Organising Committee (HKPEOC) initiated public deliberations concerning the Hong Kong Parliamentary Election Regulations draft and associated voting procedures on July 1, 2023. An abundance of views and inquiries have been amassed. We present the following summary of prevalent questions and their corresponding responses:
- Rationale for the necessity of a voting software with a dynamic QR code.
During the parliamentary election, multiple servers will host the voting software for voter access. Dynamic QR codes ensure that voters can download the software and submit their votes even if some servers face obstruction by the Hong Kong Communist regime. To surmount network blocking, Hong Kong locals may utilize VPN services to access the voting system, thereby circumventing internet limitations.
- Justification for the requirement of passport authentication.
Mainstream country passports now comply with International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) standards for e-passports, also recognized as biometric passports. Such passports harbor an integrated chip containing the holder’s personal data, accessible via Near Field Communication (NFC) on smartphones. These passports are challenging to counterfeit.
Hong Kong’s latest smart identity cards fail to meet international standards due to their chip data only being accessible via specific equipment. We mainly utilize passports for voter verification due to their increased security and resistance to forgery. For voters unable to be authenticated via a passport, additional identification documents such as Hong Kong identity cards or birth certificates will be required by the software.
- Purpose of Machine Readable Zone (MRZ) code access on passports.
The MRZ code represents the key to unlock the electronic passport chip. The MRZ code houses not only passport-specific information but also multiple sets of check digits for verification. Before accessing the passport chip, any reader, including smartphones, must first acquire the MRZ code, as the chip’s contents are otherwise inaccessible.
The technology of MRZ code and electronic passport chip reading via smartphones is not novel. The UK Home Office previously employed a similar method to verify BN(O) visa scheme applicant qualifications. The HKPEOC conducted extensive research, professional consultations, and internal testing of various authentication schemes, concluding that this method remains the safest, most reliable, and feasible. The Chinese Communist regime’s potential to pre-print counterfeit passports and chips to disrupt the elections would likely severely compromise their already waning international credibility.
- Measures for ensuring personal privacy and security within the voting system.
Upon successful verification of a voter’s ‘eligibility to vote’, the voting software will allow the voter to cast his/her vote (called the ballot). The voting software will also make use of parts of the voter’s information (data read from the passport) to generate an identification code. The identification code will undergo “salted hash” encryption and be stored, along with the ballot, in a blockchain. All information read from the voter’s passport will then be erased completely at the voter’s phone end before the voter switches his/her phone back to online mode. In online mode, the ballot will be transmitted to a voting server via a VPN channel and stored on the blockchain. The voter’s involvement in the voting process finishes here. Ballots will then be counted at the conclusion of the voting period. Each eligible voter will have an identification code used to prevent duplicate or multiple voting. In the event of a server breach and data leak, it remains highly unlikely that hackers can decrypt the passwords and steal voters’ personal data. It’s well known that the intrinsically high security of blockchain will present an extreme challenge for anyone trying to hack and alter them.
- Reasons for the setting of the voting age at 16 years as opposed to 18 years or above, or existing laws in Hong Kong.
The HKPEOC examined various election laws from different regions and integrated the most advantageous aspects in drafting the HKP Election Regulations. Several countries such as Austria, Germany, and Sweden, extend certain legal and civic rights to individuals aged 16, even though they are not considered full adults. Lowering the voting age to 16 aims to stimulate political engagement among the youth and acknowledges the significant involvement of young participants in the 2019 Hong Kong protests. The Committee holds the view that at 16, individuals have sufficient capacity to exercise certain citizen rights and responsibilities, including election participation.
It should be emphasized that conjectures regarding lowering the voting age to 16 to secure more votes are misleading. The HKP’s establishment serves to uphold the belief in equality and the inherent rights of all individuals. Through universal suffrage and direct elections, the HKP seeks to achieve people’s sovereignty, self-determination, and universal value practice while opposing authoritarian rule, thereby continuing the pursuit of autonomous governance and a free Hong Kong.
However, as stated by the HKP’s founder, Mr. Elmer Yuen, the HKP does not belong to individual Committee members but to all Hong Kong people. The Committee’s function is to provide a platform for oppressed and persecuted Hong Kongers to voice their concerns. The ongoing public consultation aims to engage Hong Kongers in discussions, gather opinions for improving the electoral process, and strive for maximum support. The number of voters is not tied to the personal interests of individual Committee members. A higher voter turnout enhances the HKP’s international recognition and influence. Additionally, the HKP has conducted online surveys to gather opinions on whether the voting age should be set at 16 or 18. The support rates were 42% for 16 years old and 58% for 18 years old. Survey details can be found on the HKP Polling Results. Considering the factors mentioned above and the relatively close public opinions, the Committee has decided to set the voting age at 16 and will further conduct public consultations.
- Justification for the electoral law’s provisions on handling insufficient candidates.
As the Committee is neither the Chinese Communist regime nor the Hong Kong Communist regime, we cannot anticipate who will run or be elected. Article 3 of the HKP Election Regulations Draft stipulates that if the number of candidates is insufficient (less than 35), the seat limit will be set at 80% of the number of qualified candidates. This ensures that candidates are not automatically elected and that they still need to participate in campaign activities to garner voter support, maintaining the competitiveness of the elections.
- The suitability of Dr. Tsang, the Chairman of the Technical Support team, in handling voting-related technical issues.
The HKP has established dedicated committees in various domains to address related issues. Each committee comprises experts from academia, professionals, the public, and the business sector, among other fields.
With regards to the Technical Support team, its members include software engineers, network security companies, system developers, and network providers from various areas of expertise. Members are situated in different countries worldwide, including Europe, America, Australia, and Asia. The number of members and their locations may exceed general expectations. Therefore, the proposed solutions are not solely based on Dr. Tsang’s personal opinions but are the result of discussions and research by the collective expertise of the team. It is not merely an individual opinion. Of course, we also welcome different proposals to continue improving the relevant systems.
The Committee recognizes that no matter how advanced the technology, it cannot completely eliminate the risk of issues. Therefore, we invite individuals from all sectors to visit the HKP discussion forum to share their thoughts, opinions, and questions, to continue improving the electoral law and voting system, and minimize potential issues and risks.