Hong Kong’s election watchdog urged to come clean on city’s ‘worst’ data theft

Lawmaker accuses the Registration and Electoral Office of hiding from public since loss of computers containing details on 3.7 million voters

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 29 March, 2017, 9:02pm
UPDATED : Wednesday, 29 March, 2017, 10:52pm

The election watchdog is under growing pressure to come clean on the theft of computers ­containing personal information on the city’s 3.7 million voters.

A special meeting is slated in the Legislative Council to look into what was called Hong Kong’s most serious data breach.

Hong Kong election laptop theft may have been ‘inside job’

The incident came to light on Monday when staff from the Registration and Electoral Office ­discovered that the two laptops had been stolen from a storeroom at the AsiaWorld-Expo centre on Lantau, which served as a back-up venue for the chief executive election on Sunday.

There is reason to believe that the laptops were stolen not because of their value
Dennis Kwok, Civic Party lawmaker

The laptops contained the names, addresses and identity card numbers of the voters, as well as the names of the 1,194 members of the Election Committee who picked Carrie Lam Cheng ­Yuet-ngor as the new chief executive of the city.

Civic Party lawmaker Dennis Kwok said there were too many unanswered questions surrounding the theft and he wanted to know why such important information would be stored there without anyone looking after it.

“There is reason to believe that the laptops were stolen not ­because of their value,” he said.

Kwok, who met Constitutional and Mainland Affairs minister Raymond Tam Chi-yuen on Wednesday to discuss the case, quoted Tam as acknowledging that special motives might be involved.

Democratic Party lawmaker Lam Cheuk-ting said it was the city’s worst data breach and ­accused the Registration and Electoral Office of hiding from the public since it came to light.

Laptops containing 3.7 million Hong Kong voters’ data stolen after chief executive election

The election watchdog only released a statement announcing the incident on Monday after ­media inquiries and issued ­another on Tuesday to apologise for mishandling the affair.

Lam said the office had turned down his request for a meeting.

“I still have not even had a chance to have a phone conversation with [the chief electoral ­officer],” he said, adding the ­government’s attitude had made it hard for the legislature to monitor the executive branch.

Pro-establishment lawmaker Martin Liao Cheung-kong, chairman of Legco’s panel on constitutional affairs, heeded the call for a special meeting in early April, at which Tam and representatives from the election watchdog would be invited to attend.