Hong Kong anti-graft body arrests 72 people over alleged IT sector vote-rigging
Independent Commission Against Corruption carries out biggest crackdown for over 13 years; sources say some voters had no links with sector and money changed hands
In the biggest crackdown on election fraud in more than 13 years, Hong Kong’s graft buster has arrested 72 people accused of vote-rigging in the information technology functional constituency in last year’s Legislative Council polls.
Among those arrested last week in the operation codenamed “Snow Leopard” by the Independent Commission Against Corruption were 68 newly registered electors and four middlemen, three of whom were registered voters.
Some were allegedly not eligible to be voters in the IT functional constituency, one of 28 traditional trade-based groupings whose members get to elect their own representatives in Legco.
The 36 men and 36 women, aged between 18 and 67, were arrested during the operation from Tuesday to Thursday last week involving 120 ICAC officers.
“Some of the suspects are accused of accepting between several hundred dollars and HK$1,000 each in the process,” a source said.
The crackdown followed complaints alleging corrupt conduct in breach of the Election Ordinance. ICAC inquiries found that most of the suspects were newly registered as electors through their membership of two professional organisations in the information technology field.
The ICAC did not disclose the names of the two organisations, but a source identified them as the Internet Professional Association (iProA) and the Institute of Electrical and Electronic Engineers (IEEE), Hong Kong section, computer chapter.
The middlemen are suspected of collecting personal data of some of the suspects through relatives, friends and other associates for registration as members of one of the two IT groups and subsequent registration as electors in the constituency.
Inquiries also revealed that the newly registered electors, some of whom were students, clerks, drivers and housewives, should not have been qualified for membership of the professional groups.
Records from the Registration and Electoral Office showed most of the newly registered electors had voted in the September 4 elections last year, the ICAC said.
All those arrested have been released on ICAC bail while investigations continue.
Media reports last year exposed irregularities in the voter registration of the IT functional constituency, including electors with different surnames reporting the same residential address and registering home addresses where they were not living.
Several IT groups, including iProA, the Hong Kong Information Technology Joint Council (HKITJC) and the IEEE, were pulled into the controversy.
A Post investigation also found a key member of iProA had controlled as many as five corporate votes in the constituency through a number of dormant IT firms.
iProA vice-president Eric Yeung Chuen-sing, who filed a complaint to the ICAC last year regarding a suspicious spike in voter registrations, said he had not been approached by the graft-buster. Yeung, also a member of the HKITJC, added he had not heard of anyone from these two groups being invited to help with the investigation.
IT sector lawmaker Charles Mok said: “The [ICAC] should look into what forces are behind these arrested middlemen.” He also urged the government to reform the registration requirements of the IT sector.
Hong Kong’s legislature has 70 members, half of whom are returned by direct elections and half indirectly by functional constituencies.
Last year, the IT functional constituency saw its voter number rise by more than 5,400 from the 2012 elections to 12,115.
At that time, Mok had expressed concern that pro-Beijing forces were getting people to sign up.
Reporting by Ng Kang-chung, Clifford Lo, Jeffie Lam and Kimmy Chung