A postgraduate candidate running for the University of Hong Kong’s governing council has alleged that his opponent is buying votes from his classmates after receiving tipoffs from a graduate and a student at the university. Michael Mo Kwan-tai, a law student and an Amnesty International campaigner, reported the case to the Independent Commission Against Corruption on Thursday morning.

Mo revealed screenshots which allegedly shows Printa Zhu Ke sending out details about his election campaign and distributing virtual red packets containing money via the messaging app WeChat. Zhu is a fourth-year engineering student from the mainland and has lived in Hong Kong for four years. He is also the incumbent postgraduate representative. His term ends at the end of the month.

Michael Mo Press conference
Michael Mo in front of the ICAC. Photo: Michael Mo’s campaign team.

Zhu said in a statement on Facebook on Thursday that he welcomed Mo’s actions and would cooperate with the ICAC if they asked him to assist with the investigation.

In addition to a group called the Hong Kong New Youth Association, screenshots taken by Mo showed that there were two other groups, the HKU Graduate Clover Group, as well as the HKU Graduate Leaf Group, which Mo said were likely cohort group chats. Screenshots from the two groups show that after Zhu posted his campaign poster and red packet, some members told him that they had voted and one asked for the link to vote online.

chat screenshots
Screenshots from one of the chats.

The postgraduate student body, which elects a representative to the HKU Council every year, will decide their representative for the coming year this week. The voting period for the current election will end on Friday. There are four candidates in the race this year.

“Elections should be about competing platforms and abilities. Yet Zhu has chosen to bribe voters,” said Mo. “Such an act is an offence in Hong Kong and will cause enormous damage to the reputation of HKU.”

Mo told HKFP regarding the ICAC case: “I can only update that they acknowledged the case and will come back to me, but I don’t know when.”

zhu ke michael mo hku
Campaign posters of Zhu Ke (left) and Michael Mo (right). Photo: Zhu Ke/Michael Mo, via Facebook.

He said that as there was no suspension clause in the university’s election rules, the election “must go on” and cannot be stopped in light of the incident.

“Any election should be open and fair,” he said.

Jessica Leung, Michael Mo’s campaign manager, told HKFP that in addition to handing the case to ICAC, they have also arranged for a face-to-face complaint session with the Registrar, Henry Wai. Depending on the outcome of the session, which will take place at 6pm on Thursday, they are also considering an appeal of the election results within 24 hours of the announcement as well as reporting Zhu Ke to the disciplinary committee.

Meanwhile, Zhu said in his statement that the red packet was only to reimburse those who had helped advertise for the campaign. He said that the members of the Hong Kong New Youth Association group chat have already graduated, so they do not have the right to vote in the election.

Zhu ke red packet screenshots
Red packet screenshots. Photo: Zhu Ke via Facebook.

“I feel very sorry for the misunderstandings and chaos caused by this incident, although I do not know what channels Michael Mo got these conversations from and started making assumptions and accusations out of context,” he said. “I say again that I did not in any way engage in bribery or acts which corrupted the election.”

Zhu could not be reached for further comment.

HKU Council controversy

The HKU Council was embroiled in controversy last year after it decided to reject the appointment of liberal-leaning scholar Johannes Chan to pro-vice-chancellor despite opposition from students and faculty members. The decision was criticised as being politically motivated, targeting Chan and his colleague Benny Tai, a key figure behind the 2014 pro-democracy Occupy protests.

See also: Taking politics off campus? Postgrad HKU Council hopefuls debate governance and academic freedom

Arthur Li.
Arthur Li.

Last December, Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying, HKU’s chancellor by law, appointed his ally Arthur Li Kwok-cheung as Council chairman amid strong opposition.

Students demanded that Hong Kong’s leader refrain from interfering in university affairs and called for amendments to the HKU Ordinance, which stipulates that the chancellor is the chief executive by default and can appoint nearly one-third of the 20 Council members.

Mo previously told HKFP that he hoped to change the membership structure of the Council and defend the university from outside political influence.

With additional reporting from Ellie Ng.

Chantal Yuen is a Hong Kong journalist interested in issues dealing with religion and immigration. She majored in German and minored in Middle Eastern studies at Princeton University.