Organisers of Occupy Central say they will extend voting on Friday’s “referendum” on electoral reform from three days to 10 days after its electronic system was targeted by hackers.
The system, set up to accept advance registrations, has been hit by more than 10 billion cyberattacks since it was launched last week.
The civil disobedience movement was not the only victim of the attacks. Chinese-language newspaper Apple Daily – known for its pro-democracy stance – was also brought down by hackers.
And the attacks were of the same type – distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) – in which the server of a website is besieged by demands to access the site.
Access to the online editions of Apple Daily in Hong Kong and Taiwan was limited yesterday and it instead relied on content uploaded to social media before normal service resumed after a 12-hour disruption.
Professor Benny Tai Yiu-ting, one of the founders of Occupy Central, said there was “reason to suspect” that government bodies were behind the hacking activities and that the attacks must have come from “a political power which doesn’t want to see universal suffrage being implemented in Hong Kong”.
University of Hong Kong chief pollster Dr Robert Chung Ting-yiu, who was commissioned by Occupy Central to handle the June 20-22 “referendum”, said voting would be extended after hackers paralysed the online platform.
Under the original plan, voting was to begin via the website or smartphone app PopVote from Friday, while 15 polling stations would open on June 22.
Online voting will now run until June 29, and 10 polling stations will be set up for a second day on June 29 for any voters who cannot vote online, Chung said.
A polling station will also open at night on the City University campus from June 23 to June 28.
“We can’t see any illegalities in the platform we’ve built,” Chung said. “We are just trying to promote a peaceful and rational way of settling disputes. If that’s not acceptable, it’s a loss to Hong Kong and the attackers should bear moral responsibility.”
Chung said the online voting system was still up and running, but there could be further disruptions from hackers. He added that HKU had a contingency plan should the system collapse, but declined to give further details.
Occupy Central organisers %reiterated they would not back down from their target of 100,000 votes in the “referendum” to gauge views on how to elect the next chief executive in 2017. They threaten to block roads in Central in a final push for democracy.
“The number of votes might decrease, but the weight of every vote will definitely increase,” said Dr Chan Kin-man, another Occupy founder, as more time would be required to cast a vote. “They can paralyse our system but they’ll never paralyse Hongkongers’ hearts,” he said.
A police spokesman said the Commercial Crime Bureau would follow up on the attacks.