Seven sentenced for fake address in district election
Seven Hong Kong men living in Shenzhen were given suspended jail terms for using a false address to register to vote in Yuen Long in the district council elections last year.
They were the first batch of defendants to be convicted and sentenced since hundreds of reports of vote-rigging in November's polls surfaced. Both the police and anti-graft body the ICAC are investigating the cases.
During sentencing at Tuen Mun Court, Principal Magistrate Anthony Kwok Kai-on said he would have imposed an immediate custodial sentence on the instigator, Lam Kam-hung, 57, had he not suffered from cancer and undergone major surgery.
He sentenced Lam to four months' imprisonment, suspended for two years, and ordered him to pay costs of HK$ 2,000. The remaining defendants were sentenced to two months in prison, suspended for one year, and ordered to pay HK$1,000.
Lam had incited six other Hongkongers living in a Shenzhen village to provide false information on the provisional register for the November 6 vote by using the address of a warehouse in Tai Dao Tsuen, Hung Shui Kiu, Yuen Long. The other men were identified as Chan Kam-ping, 46; Chan Kwok-ping, 57; Lam Kam-fai, 59; Wong Wai-kwan, 58; Man Loi-sau, 67; and Chan Sai-ngau, 58.
The six men said they agreed to the plan because they would have found it too embarrassing to refuse Lam Kam-hung. The ringleader was the only one to cast his ballot in the Ping Shan South constituency, claiming he did so to boost his reputation in the mainland village.
The magistrate said vote-rigging or suspected vote-rigging were very serious forms of electoral corruption and dealt a heavy blow to the voter registration system. They cast a shadow over the poll's credibility.
The vote-rigging was a well-plotted scam and would have raised doubts about the election results had it succeeded, Kwok said. 'The wide coverage [of vote-rigging activities] by the media, even international media, raises questions ... about the electoral system of Hong Kong.'
Kwok deemed it a 'ridiculously laughable excuse' for Lam to claim he committed the offence 'to boost his reputation in the village'.
'Voting is a solemn and fundamental civil right. It is not a face-giving party,' the magistrate said.
While six of the men did not cast their ballots, and as such 'the election result was not affected and there was no evidence to prove the intention of vote-rigging', the magistrate said 'their conduct seriously damaged the voter registration system'.
Ahead of the Legislative Council election in September, the magistrate warned the defendants not to commit a similar offence again.
The registration office had flagged the seven suspects to the police last year. The constituency election was won by Cheung Muk-lam, of the Beijing-loyalist New Territories Association of Societies.
The Independent Commission Against Corruption said that by January it had received 1,182 reports of irregularities in the district council elections, of which 730 involved vote-rigging allegations.
The number of votes Cheung Muk-lam received in Ping Shan South, beating the incumbent by 793 votes