HKU Council defends recent decision to dismiss vote-buying allegations
Chairman cites 2012 High Court decision in email to students, staff and alumni
The University of Hong Kong Council took a 2012 High Court judgement into consideration when it decided to dismiss vote-buying allegations against a postgraduate student, who was recently elected to the body.
It comes after the university’s students’ union, academic staff association and alumni concern group submitted a joint statement, with around 4,860 signatures, calling on the council to investigate the suspected bribery.
Earlier in the month, Michael Mo Kwan-tai, a contender in the race for the postgraduate council seat, filed a complaint with the Independent Commission Against Corruption claiming incumbent candidate Printa Zhu Ke had bribed voters.
Mo alleged mainland-born Zhu, who eventually won the election by 654 votes ahead of Mo’s 410 votes, offered virtual “red packets” containing money to voters via the messaging app WeChat.
But Zhu denied Mo’s allegations, saying the WeChat group he was sending the “red packets” to were university graduates who had no right to vote in the election.
Zhu said the “red packets” contained an average of 80 fen (almost HK$1) and were meant to be a token of thanks to people who had helped him in his campaign.
Through an email to students, staff and alumni from the school’s registrar, council chairman Arthur Li Kwok-cheung said the council had considered Zhu’s explanation that “it was not his intention to bribe any person into voting for him and in this respect he referred to the insignificant value (about RMB 0.80) offered through the ‘Red Packet’ by way of justification”.
Li also said the council took note of the High Court’s judgement in the case of the Secretary for Justice versus Mandy Tam Heung-man in 2012, which stated that the nature and value of any advantage could be taken into account when assessing whether it was offered as an inducement to vote.
Tam, who was a candidate in the accountancy functional constituency of the 2008 Legislative Council Elections, was charged with offering an advantage as an inducement to vote after she organised a tea gathering for accountants just two days before the election during which a talk on a certification was provided for free.
Tam was eventually acquitted after the magistrate decided that, albeit an advantage was offered to the audience who (at least many of them) were electors, she only intended to exploit the opportunity of the tea gathering to promote herself as a candidate and did not intend to offer the talk as an inducement.
“Factors, such as whether the respondent thought that anyone could be induced to vote for him [Zhu] by the offer of such a small amount of money, are linked to intention and could be considered,” Li said.
The chairman said it was recommended at the council meeting that the University’s election regulations be reviewed to provide further guidance to future candidates in light of this experience.
Mo criticised the council for making a “political decision” on a legal matter, adding that he would seek to lodge a police report after his complaint with the ICAC was rejected. Mo said the ICAC had told him the matter was not under its jurisdiction.