The vice-president of the largest teachers’ union in Hong Kong has denied a report that claimed its members were “transferred” to become IT sector voters for the upcoming Legislative Council election, in order to secure the seat for the incumbent pro-democracy lawmaker. He said the union had never even discussed such plans.

The pro-Beijing Headline Daily carried a front page report on Thursday claiming that some 1,500 members of the Hong Kong Professional Teachers’ Union (HKPTU), who worked in IT in higher education institutions, applied to be members of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) to become IT sector voters.

It quoted an unnamed source as claiming that the arrangement came after the HKPTU gained enough members to secure a seat in the education sector, therefore “the HKPTU approved the ‘transfer’ arrangement upon pressure from the four pan-democrat godfathers,” although some members were not happy about it, urging its top management to resign.

Cheung Yui-fai (left) and Ip Kin-yuen (right). /Stand News.

Ip Kin-yuen, the incumbent education sector lawmaker and Cheung Yui-fai – both HKPTU vice-presidents – denied that the union had any discussion about the arrangement when approached by Headline Daily.

The number of education sector voters dropped from 92,957 in 2012 to 88,185 this year. Asked about the drop, Ip told the newspaper that it may be due to members choosing to switch to the district council (second) constituency.

No meeting

Cheung said on a Commercial Radio programme on Thursday there has never been any situation whereby some HKPTU members were unhappy, as there was never a meeting on the reported arrangement.

“When the reporter called me, [the meeting] was never mentioned, and I was not asked to confirm it,” Cheung said. “All our meetings are recorded in the minutes. Such a meeting has never happened.”

He said the union would not be able to know if any members switched to the IT sector. “This is their own right,” he said.

Asked whether top management of HKPTU pressured members to switch sectors, Cheung said: “100 per cent certain that it did not happen.”

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

The Headline Daily report came after a Ming Pao report on Wednesday in which an inspection of the electoral register found that some voters were not working in IT, but in transportation and property businesses.

The Ming Pao report found that the number of IT sector voters from the IEEE – an international organisation of engineers – increased by 4,700  since the last election in 2012.

Liu Yat-wing, secretary for the IEEE Hong Kong section told Ming Pao that the institute was surprised by the increase, but no irregularity in the distribution of new members was found and no vote-rigging activities were involved.

Liu added that although new applicants do not have to submit proof of working in IT, the application form was detailed enough to examine whether they are eligible.

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.

Ip Kin-yuen is running for re-election. His opponent is Choi Yuk-lin.

Incumbent IT sector lawmaker Charles Mok is running for re-election. His opponent is Eric Yeung Chuen-sing.

The full list of candidates running across districts and constituencies can be viewed here.

Kris Cheng

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.