Hong Kong Police Force should not make the election register a scapegoat for doxxing threats, a court heard on Monday as a government lawyer suggested officers’ personal details might have been obtained through hacking instead. Raymond Leung Wai-man SC, representing the electoral authorities, was speaking at a hearing at the Court of First Instance to decide whether to turn a temporary order previously granted by the Court of Appeal to restrict public viewing of the election register, into a permanent ban as requested by frontline officers. Leung said there was no evidence to suggest a causal relationship between information obtained in the election register and online doxxing – the malicious disclosure of personal details – against police officers and their families during the month-long anti-government protests in Hong Kong. He said evidence had suggested that doxxers had hacked into the police database to obtain officers’ personal information, including their identity card number, date of birth, contact details and their academic background. Light-hearted photos of their family life and information about their children might have been obtained via social media, he added. “It is not entirely fair to use information on the register as a scapegoat for all these misdeeds,” Leung told Mr Justice Anderson Chow Ka-ming, “It is likely the information comes from all sorts of internet media that has already been there.” The Court of Appeal issued the temporary ban on October 22 until the determination of the judicial review proceedings, following an application by the Junior Police Officers’ Association (JPOA) to forbid public access to the register, which they considered to be a potential source for online doxxing against officers and their families. The court, however, permitted electoral authorities to supply an extract of the finalised register to validly nominated candidates contesting the district council elections on November 24. JPOA, which represented more than 25,000 officers or 0.62 per cent of some 4.13 million registered voters, initially saw its application turned down by Chow, on the grounds that privacy concerns of police officers, placed against the importance of a fair election process, did not warrant an urgent injunction. Doxxing has become a powerful weapon in the Hong Kong protests But justices Jeremy Poon Shiu-chor and Johnson Lam Man-hon, of the higher court, found the threat of ongoing doxxing “real and imminent” in that it might deter people from exercising their rights to vote under article 26 of the Basic Law – the city’s mini-constitution – if the names of voters were linked to their residential addresses in the final register. They were also of the view that doxxing posed a considerable threat to the overall integrity of the city’s elections, and that “the government should move quickly to address the problem”. At the Monday hearing, JPOA lawyer Abraham Chan Lok-shung SC said Hong Kong’s election authorities should follow overseas examples to allow voters to decide whether to withdraw their personal information from public view in the registry, especially when anyone could fall prey to doxxing. According to Chan, voters in Canada can opt out of the national register without losing their voting rights, while people in the United Kingdom can only see an edited version of the election register where voters can apply to withhold their personal details. Hong Kong privacy watchdog refers 600 cases of doxxing to police Chan said the present voter’s registry, which included the voters’ names with their home addresses, had failed to protect “politically exposed persons from real risks of targeted harm”, resulting in an unlawful interference of their privacy and home under article 14 of the Hong Kong Bill of Rights. He said the district council elections last month, which saw the voters’ register removed from public view, had served as a “control test” to prove the overall integrity of the elections remained unaffected even though access to the register was restrained by the court. Leung countered the claim, saying today’s open registration regime was a result of continuing process of public consultation. He said voters, upon registration, had offered their consent to make part of their personal information public, and it would be a “quantum leap” to suggest that opening up such information by itself infringed the voters’ privacy. “The right to privacy itself is not an absolute right. It is subject to relevant restrictions required for a democratic society to operate,” Leung said. The hearing continues on Tuesday.