The government had previously said it has a tight schedule to meet, as changes have to be implemented before the Election Committee election in September and the Legislative Council election in December.

A four-hour meeting was scheduled for yesterday afternoon, but as lawmakers have already finished scrutinizing the bill, the meeting was cancelled. The committee will meet again this Friday to scrutinize amendments tabled by the government.

However, the speed has taken a toll on lawmakers’ opportunity to speak, as Business and Professionals Alliance’s Priscilla Leung Mei-fun requested to speak near the end of the meeting, saying that she wished to raise “a point that the government also wants me to make.”

However, committee chairman Martin Liao Cheung-kong rejected her request, as it will “set a bad precedent” if he allows lawmakers to scrutinize the bill after it is passed.

Liao therefore suggested Leung submit her opinion in writing to the government. Permanent secretary for Constitutional and Mainland Affairs Roy Tang Yun-kwong agreed with the recommendation.

Earlier in the meeting, lawmakers called on the government to further tighten restrictions on who is allowed to check the voters’ register.

According to the government bill, specified persons will still be allowed to check the voters’ register after the electoral changes.

That would include media companies approved by the government’s Information Services Department, political parties or organizations represented by a candidate in a previous election or those intending to send candidates to run in an upcoming election.

Lawmaker Paul Tse Wai-chun slammed the government for being too lenient in allowing parties or organizations that intend to send a representative to run in an upcoming election to check the voters’ register.

In response, Tang said besides catering for those with parties or organizations previously ran in elections, the law amendment bill also has to take into consideration those who might be running in an election for the first time.

“Relevant persons should be allowed to check the voters’ register under the principle of fairness,” Tang said, “we have already tightened the restrictions for people to check the voters’ register as far as we could, and those publicly declared to run will also be monitored under existing local electoral laws.”

Tse then called on the government to tighten restrictions to prevent “corrupted reporters” using information from the voters’ register to “stir up trouble.”

Liao also raised concerns that there might be abuse, as people can declare their intent to run in an election and withdraw after obtaining information from the voters’ register.

Tang replied that the government will require those obtaining information from the voters’ register to provide personal identification documents and declare that the information gathered could only be used for electoral purposes and that any abuse will be penalized.

He added that media organizations that do not do any reporting work, or those claiming to be citizen journalists, will not be approved by the Information Services Department, and the department will also be given the right to cancel their eligibility if they are found to have abused the procedure.