A magistrate has slammed the Registration and Electoral Office for incompetence after a court reviewed hundreds of complaints relating to fraudulent or bogus particulars arising during the voter registration process. Many of the errors were a result of the office’s incorrect inputting of data, the Sha Tin Magistrates’ Court heard on Monday.

Around twenty citizens accused of having provided fraudulent details attended court to defend themselves. In one case, it was found that a single address belonged to people with three different surnames because the voter, Ms Ho, lived with her husband and maternal grandmother, all of whom have different surnames.

In another case, the court heard that people with five different surnames were found to be registered to one address because those who had moved away did not renew their details.

sha tin magistrate court
Sha Tin Magistrates’ Court. Photo: Google Maps.

Magistrate Andrew Ma criticised the Registration and Electoral Office for causing confusion among voters and wasting the court’s time and resources by inputting voter data incorrectly.

The magistrate also said that some of the suspicious cases could be the doing of political groups who want to prevent those with opposing views from voting. Ma urged the office to address the issues immediately and praised voters for fulfilling their duty as citizens by highlighting the discrepancies through legal processes.

‘Malicious complaints’
The voters were assisted by Legislative Councillor Ben Chan Han-pan, of the pro-establishment DAB party, who said that many of the accused were innocent senior citizens unfamiliar with the regulations and procedures related to the election process. He suspected that some people had been making complaints maliciously and abusing the reporting mechanism.

Ben Chan Han-pan
Ben Chan Han-pan of the Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong (DAB) party.

Under current procedures, the Registration and Electoral Office has to refer notice of objections made by complainants to a judge, who will resolve the matter through a hearing. The voter whose particulars were being questioned can then personally appear in court or act through a lawyer to confirm their registered address.

The comments of the judge came after a series of incidents involving suspected voter registration fraud emerged. Voters had been found to be registered to dismantled buildings, non-existent floors and a five-star hotel, raising concerns that the “voters” may have been planted to manipulate election results.

Karen is a journalist and writer covering politics and legal affairs in Hong Kong for HKFP. She has also written features on human rights, public space, regional legal developments, social and grassroots activism, and arts & culture. She is a BA and LLB graduate from the University of Hong Kong.