Monday, February 27, 2012

How does the U.S. Government feel about the upcoming Internet vote for Chief Executive in Hong Kong?

U.S. State Department “does not have a statement on” the March 23rd Internet poll in Hong Kong to ascertain the public’s preference for Chief Executive, but it did say that “this is an internal decision for the people of Hong Kong.”

In an e-mail sent to Etopia News, a State Department spokesperson wrote:

“In response to your inquiry, the Department does not have a statement on this since this is an internal decision for the people of Hong Kong.”

Very diplomatic of them.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Outside support for Hong Kong Internet poll is “probably not a good idea,” says Brookings expert

Richard C. Bush is a Senior Fellow at the Brookings Institution in Washington, D.C., and the Director of its Center for Northeast Asian Policy Studies. According to the Brookings web site:

“Richard Bush’s two-decade public service career spans Congress, the intelligence community and the U.S. State Department. He currently focuses on China-Taiwan relations, U.S.-China relations, the Korean peninsula and Japan’s security.”

His background and expertise makes him ideally suited to comment to Etopia News about the March 23rd Internet-based “civil referendum” poll/election that seeks to ascertain the preferences of all the millions of permanent residents of Hong Kong 18 and older for that jurisdiction’s Chief Executive two days before an unelected Selection Committee of 1,200 makes the official choice for that position.

For one thing, Mr. Bush does not think that Westerners who’d like to see more democracy in China ought to get involved in that polling process. “Because suspicious Chinese will easily believe that Washington is behind the current effort, it is probably not a good idea for outsiders to ‘actively’ support this effort,” he writes in an e-mail.

The Brookings-based China-watcher provides a useful context for this exercise in popular democracy when he writes:

“This exercise at bottom-up democracy does challenge both the authority that Beijing believes it has to set the boundaries of political activity and its assumption that the selection committee [SC] represents the interests of the community. It would be rather embarrassing for the regime if the electronic tally was the opposite of the SC result (although I’m sure there would be a propaganda offensive to discredit the citizens’ count or perhaps a hacking effort to undermine it)."

He also provides some background information on the man who heads the Public Opinion Programme at the University of Hong Kong and who is the organizer of this exercise in quasi-popular sovereignty:

“Actually, this is not the first time that Robert Chung has tested the tolerance of the regime. He recently released a poll that showed that more people in Hong Kong have a Hong Kong identity than a Chinese identity, and he was roundly criticized in China for being a ‘political player in academic disguise’ and for being a cat’s paw for the United States.”

Clearly, this civil referendum and the controversy surrounding it in China and its Special Administrative Region of Hong Kong will provide a lot of fodder for those concerned about the future of democracy in China. Mr. Bush’s considered advice to them at this point seems to be simple: look but don’t touch.

Meanwhile, the JakartaGlobe reported in its February 23rd edition that a poll already conducted by Mr. Chung shows that:

“[Beijing’s reported choice] Henry Tang was favoured by only 16 percent of the 506 respondents polled in the latest survey commissioned by English daily the South China Morning Post when respondents were asked to pick between him and main rival Leung Chun-ying. Leung is well ahead of Tang with the backing of 63.9 percent of respondents."

The JakartaGlobe went on to say that:

“’If Tang finally gets elected against landslide public opinion, there will be a governance crisis,’ pollster Robert Chung from the University of Hong Kong, who conducted the poll, told the Post.”

The article goes on to relate personal details of an unflattering nature about Mr. Tang, here.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Karlyn Bowman at AEI discusses recent political polling results

Karlyn Bowman, a Senior Fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, where she studies public opinion, comments on recent poll findings regarding Congress, President Obama, the Republican presidential race, where people get their news, and immigration, recorded from Washington, D.C., on February 22, 2012.

POP at HKU has decided to go ahead with its online civil referendum

The Public Opinion Programme (POP) at the University of Hong Kong, under the leadership of Dr. Robert Chung, has initiated a plan to conduct an online poll open to all permanent residents of Hong Kong over the age of 18 on March 23rd to ascertain public opinion about who ought to become the Special Administrative Region’s next Chief Executive. The “real” election for that office will involve an Electoral Committee of 1,200 voters (out of a population of 7 million).

On February 8th, POP announced a fund-raising campaign in support of this online poll, saying that it needed at least 500,000 Hong Kong dollars (HKD) in order to carry it out.

Today POP said that it had already raised HKD 480,000, had another HKD 90,000 in pledges, and that it “has decided to go ahead” with this polling project, which will let hundreds of thousands of Hong Kong people express their preferences regarding who should become Chief Executive of the jurisdiction.

In order to explain the latest developments of the project, POP will hold a press conference tomorrow at 3:30 pm at 5/F, Kennedy Town Centre, 23 Belcher’s Street, Kennedy Town, Hong Kong, at 3:30 pm. Appearing at that event will be Dr. Chung, Director of POP, and Mr. Jazz Ma, IT Manager of POP.

The agenda for the press conference includes: “progress of fund-raising and the latest ideas,” “basic concept of the ‘3-21 Mock Civil Referendum’ Project,” and a question and answer period.

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Internet voting planned for March 23rd Hong Kong Civil Referendum

In the February 23, 2012 edition of the Economist, in the ”Banyan” column, reference is made to “a scheme by pollsters at the University of Hong Kong to hold a ‘virtual’ online election two days before the official ballot” for the Special Administrative Region’s Chief Executive. The binding, official election will be held on March 25th, between C.Y. Leung, Henry Tang, and the Democratic Party’s Albert Ho.

According to the Economist, “The electorate is a committee of 1,200 voters (out of a population of 7 million). Some are politicians; most are chosen by 'functional constituencies’ to represent sectoral interests. Their main job is to carry out China’s decision on who runs its special administrative region of Hong Kong.”

In order to gauge the views of a larger segment of the Hong Kong population, Robert Chung, Director of the Public Opinion Programme (POP) at the University of Hong Kong, is organizing a poll, open to all Hong Kong permanent resident 18 and older, to be called a “civil referendum.” The purpose of this exercise is three-fold, according to a February 8th press release from the group (“HKUPOP rolls out the “3.23 Civil Referendum Project”):

“1) to integrate with the results of public opinion surveys to form a comprehensive reference for the public and the election committee, 2) to construct a civil society by promoting civil participation, and 3) to demonstrate the electronic voting system.”

The press release puts this civil referendum in context:

“As an independent academic institution, POP has worked hard to develop a task-based electronic voting system to facilitate the general public and people from different sectors to express their will through civil referendum. POP plans to hold a ‘civil referendum’ on March 23, 2012 to echo with the fourth Chief Executive election to be held on March 25. POP hopes to let the general public vote via the civil referendum in order to express their support towards different candidates.”

According to the project’s website, at,

“’Although the civil referendum does not have legal status, and will not be carried out as strictly as official voting, if the civil referendum can be conducted fairly and independently, and the number of votes count up to five digits, then it will have very high reference value,’ says Robert Chung.”

As of February 18th, the project had raised 145,218 Hong Kong dollars (HKD), or $18,733.12, to carry out its work. The referendum’s website says that it is seeking at least HKD 500,000 in order to set up its online voting system and one brick-and-mortar polling station. According to the website:

• For HKD 500,000 ($64,500) raised, there will be an offsite voting system and 1 onsite polling station
• For HKD 600,000 ($77,400) raised, there will be up to 3 onsite polling stations
• For HKD 700,000 ($90,300) raised, there will be up to 5 onsite polling stations
• For HKD 800,000 ($103,200) raised, there will be an extra "School Mock Voting" system constructed
• If over HKD 800,000 is raised, the surplus will be used to develop online platforms and other civil referendum projects

Friday, February 17, 2012

Award-nominated writers and others opine about online Oscar voting

Last night, February 16, 2012, the Writers Guild of America West, the Writers Guild Foundation, and Variety magazine hosted the “Beyond Words 2012” special panel event at the Writers Guild Theater at 135 South Doheny Drive in Beverly Hills, featuring “an exciting line-up of Writers Guild and Academy Awards-nominated screenwriters in Original and Adapted Screenplay categories, sharing personal experiences about their acclaimed films and the craft of screenwriting.”

Etopia News was there at the pre-panel reception, asking attendees their views on the recent decision by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences to conduct elections for the Oscars® online. Here are some of their comments:

Ron Bass, moderator of the panel discussion and screenwriter of Rain Man:

“I’m not saying I’m against it. It’s just every year I get this little nice paper ballot. I get to sit down and think. I can’t push the wrong button by mistake. I don’t quite get it. There aren’t that many of us and it’s not something that has to happen that quickly, but I suppose…”

John Logan, screenwriter of Hugo:

“I’m sort of an old-fashioned guy. I like the actual paper ballot, I like sitting there, I like chewing on my pen, and crossing out an actual physical box. I’m a traditionalist.”

Alexis, an awards consultant, was more supportive:

“I think online voting for the Academy is a fantastic idea. I think it will make it much easier for people to make their choices and maybe provide a little bit more clarity for people. The only thing that I think is a downfall is that those that don’t have access to computers or the Internet will feel a little left out maybe if there’s more information offered on the Internet that’s not [available] otherwise.”

Alexander Payne, screenwriter of The Descendants, was succinct in his comment:

“As long as Diebold isn’t in charge of it, who cares?”

Aaron Sorkin, screenwriter of Moneyball, was enthusiastic yet neutral:

“I’m a brand new Academy member. I just became a member this year. So this is the first time I’m voting, and I just love being able to vote. It doesn’t matter to me whether it’s a mail-in ballot or the Internet. If it’s the Internet someone is going to have to show me how to use it or I’ll end up voting in the American Idol contest or something. I think everyone will vote. I think making it easier is a great thing.”

Many of the attendees didn’t know about the Academy’s decision to move to Internet voting and many of them didn’t care about the issue one way or the other.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Internet Voting Debate Hits the Big Time: Leading Experts to Appear on PBS NewsHour tonight

The highly-esteemed PBS NewsHour will today feature a segment, reported by their science correspondent Miles O’Brien, which will bring the debate over Internet voting to a wider audience than ever before.

According to Monty Tayloe of the program’s PR department, the report will feature interviews with:

West Virginia Secretary of State Natalie Tennant, talking about the difficulties her husband, a West Virginia state senator, had in trying to vote while he was deployed in Afghanistan

Computer scientist Ron Rivest of MIT

Computer scientist Alex Halderman of the University of Michigan, who led a team that successfully hacked the Washington, D.C., Internet voting system in 2010

Paul Stenbjorn, now Director of Operations of the Internet voting company Scytl, and the Executive Director of the District of Columbia Board of Elections & Ethics (BOEE) at the time of that hacking

Bob Carey, head of the Federal Voting Assistance Program at the Pentagon

UC Berkeley computer scientist David Wagner, a member of the group whose recommendations led to the demise of the SERVE Internet voting system

David Jefferson, Board Chairman of

Viewers should check their local listings for time and channel details about the broadcast of this important coverage of the Internet voting debate on the PBS NewsHour.