Hong Kong citizens 'denied election vote' across Scotland after being identified as 'Chinese'

Ballot box
-Credit: (Image: PA)

An investigation is underway after Hong Kong born citizens were denied the right to vote in the General Election across Scotland after being mistakenly identified as 'Chinese'. Dozens of people who a hold British National (Overseas) passport BN(O) were turned away from polling stations on Thursday when they were incorrectly categorised on the electoral register, Glasgow Live reports.

Non-profit Scottish Hongkongers who are representing the affected voters described the situation as 'discriminatory' and have called the for training for election staff after 100 people were affected. A Glasgow charity worker who wants to remain anonymous and was denied their right to vote said: "Hong Kong people use British National (Overseas) identity to vote in the General Election. Because of the historical reasons, we have British passport and eligible to vote.

"Hong Kong people in Scotland were told they were recorded as Chinese in the Scotland’s electoral registration system, which there is no such an error in England, Wales and NI. I was told to call the Election Registration Office which was in charged by Glasgow City Council and sent them my British passport to update my details.

"The staff member refused to help me and stated I could not vote this time. I feel unsafe living in this land. Firstly, I do not think the Scottish Government and Glasgow City Council are safeguarding people’s right.

"Secondly, they are not responsible for their mistakes and let people to suffer. For this time, some of the people’s political rights are removed. I am a charity worker and helping lots of Scots and New Scots every single day, but the government is not willing to let me get my right I should have. I am really upset."

polling station
Voters walk in and out of a polling station in Glasgow on July 4 -Credit:Getty Images

Wing Kin, who lives in North Lanarkshire, added: "I am from Hong Kong and am holding Hong Kong passport. I entered the UK via a BNO visa 3 years ago. I could not vote for the general election yesterday. I had tried to contact the local council on 1st July but they told me I was not eligible on 2nd July."

Problems were reported in Glasgow, Fife, Edinburgh, Perth North Lanarkshire, South Lanarkshire, Dunfermline, Aberdeen City, East Ayrshire Council and Dundee. According to Scottish Hongkongers, half of all BN(O) holders were affected despite calls to both the Electoral Commission and Councils.

Kwok and Ng, who were also affected, said: "We called the Glasgow electoral register office on 2nd July saying we haven’t received our poll cards. The guy on the phone said we are registered as “Hong Kong - Chinese” so we cannot vote on the 4th.

"We told him that we wouldn’t have registered as Hong Kong Chinese. We chose Hong Kong BNO. He said their system never made mistake, they only take what we chose and said we wont be able to make the change on time.

"We will need to apply to vote again. On the 4th, we saw a few HK people having the same issue and the Facebook group Scottish Hongkongers suggested people who faced the same issue to email the electoral register office. We emailed them our BNO passport copy and called them. Finally, they granted us a clerical error in an email and made the change and allowed us to vote yesterday."

BN(O) status is a form of British nationality created for people from Hong Kong so they could retain a form of British nationality and a connection to the UK after the handover to China in 1997 in line with the Sino-British Joint Declaration. They are eligible to vote in UK elections and are counted as British nationals and Commonwealth citizens.

Daniel Kwok Tsz-kin, Director of the Hong Kong Scots, said: "We've been in contact with over a hundred Hong Kongers with BN(O) nationality who reached out to us because they couldn't vote. Based on our estimation, nearly half of eligible Hong Kongers with BN(O) nationality are affected.

"This is a significant blow to the Hong Kong community in Scotland, impacting their ability to settle and integrate here. Some have expressed surprise at facing government discrimination for the first time.

"We wasted no time and contacted COSLA the same day, and they have already made progress in addressing some of the issues. Therefore, we recommend providing additional training to improve their awareness."

An Electoral Commission spokesperson said. “We are aware that some people in Scotland who were previously residents of Hong Kong and hold a British Overseas Territories, British Nationals (Overseas) or British Overseas passport were turned away at the polling station yesterday, due to being incorrectly categorised on the electoral register.

"Anyone who experienced this should contact their local Electoral Registration Office. They can find their contact details on the Electoral Commission website.

“We are working with Electoral Registration Officers to understand why some people may have experienced issues in casting their vote. We will be undertaking research with voters and electoral administrators to understand their experiences and will publish a report on the delivery of the election.”

A Glasgow City Council spokesperson said: “We will investigate any claims made to us.”

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