A professional association for information technology professionals has seen an increase of more than 6,000 members in the past six months, which could be a major reason for the spike of voters in the IT sector of the Legislative Council.

The Hong Kong section of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) announced in its latest newsletter that its membership had risen from 2,700 in early December last year to 8,830 on June 1.

Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers
Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers. Photo: HKFP remix.

The increase coincided with a boom in the number of voters in the sector over the past year. The number of eligible voters leapt from 5,650 to 12,046., sparking concerns of vote-rigging activity by the pro-Beijing camp.

Membership of the IEEE does not in itself make one a voter in the IT Functional Constituency (ITFC). A member still has to register with the Registration and the Electoral Office.

“We noted such [an] increase is due to the heated discussions in the Internet Chat Groups stating that high grade members with selected IEEE societies subscription [are] eligible to register as an ITFC voter,” the newsletter read.

“We are happy that more IEEE HK Section members registered [leading to a doubling of] ITFC voters this year,” it added.

Frontline Tech Workers
A guide by Frontline Tech Workers on getting IEEE membership and voter status. Photo: Frontline Tech Workers.

IT sector lawmaker Charles Mok told HKFP that the increase in IEEE membership was significant.

“I think it reflects higher awareness and motivation among IT professionals to seize and exercise their right to vote in the LegCo IT functional constituency,” he said.

“Compared with previous years – owing to the power of social media – the voter registration message has definitely reached more active users of Facebook, but it would be premature to predict the stance of the new voters, since the information is available to almost everybody,” he added.

Charles Mok
Charles Mok. Photo: Facebook/Charles Mok.

Since January, pro-democracy advocacy groups, including Frontline Tech Workers and Keyboard Frontline, have been urging IT professionals to register as IEEE members in order to obtain voter status in the functional constituency.

To obtain membership, one must have a degree related to information technology, or three years of experience in the industry if you have another degree. Or members must have six years experience with no degree. The membership fee is around HK$800.

The requirements for being an IEEE member are much more demanding than for some other organisations whose membership can lead to voter status.

LegCo complex. Photo: Wikicommons.
LegCo complex. Photo: Wikicommons.

Hong Kong’s legislative elections will take place on September 4. Functional constituencies consist of professional or special interest groups. Thirty of the 70 seats in the legislative council are elected by Hong Kong’s 28 functional constituencies, with another five from the District Council (Second) functional constituency.

Kris Cheng is a Hong Kong journalist with an interest in local politics. His work has been featured in Washington Post, Public Radio International, Hong Kong Economic Times and others. He has a BSSc in Sociology from the Chinese University of Hong Kong. Kris is HKFP's Editorial Director.