Hiding political donors' names breaks law, Ombudsman told

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 10 May, 2007, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 10 May, 2007, 12:00am

Election organisers broke the law when they published lists of donors to chief executive candidates with most names blacked out, shareholder activist David Webb says in a complaint filed with the Ombudsman.

The action made a mockery of the exercise, he said.

The Registration and Elections Office blacked out the names of individual donors who gave more than HK$1,000, explaining it had taken 'a prudent approach' regarding personal data. But Mr Webb says in his complaint: 'If what they provided qualifies as a 'copy' then it logically follows that even if they had blacked out the entire document, it will still qualify as a 'copy'. Clearly that would be nonsense.'

Mr Webb said the purpose of publishing the list was to make the electoral process more transparent. The point was to properly identify donors to prevent collusion between businesses and the next government.

'It is still non-disclosure to say John Wong gave HK$100,000 since we still don't know who John Wong is,' said Mr Webb. Other personal particulars were needed to properly identify donors.

Donald Tsang Yam-kuen, who won the Election Committee vote in March, asked donors to give no more than HK$50,000 each to his campaign. But most of the city's big businessmen gave to his campaign, and many of their companies exceeded that limit by having directors make the donations in their own names.

On his website, Mr Webb notes that 'Henderson-related people gave 16 donations of HK$50K each for a total of HK$800,000.'

'While I'm not accusing anyone of trying to hide anything ... it certainly appears that the donations were co-ordinated,' he said. It was therefore difficult to learn how much a company donated.

A spokeswoman for the elections office said the office was prepared to consider other arrangements 'provided they did not breach the data privacy law'.