A man has been found guilty of offering to pay localists to run in last year’s District Council elections. He claimed that he was approached by Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying’s former election campaigner, who has ties with Chinese officials, and that the money came from unidentified Chinese businessmen.

Cheng Wing-kin, 32, offered at least HK$850,000 in bribes last summer to five localists, including Youngspiration lawmaker Sixtus Leung Chung-hang, to run in specified constituencies in a bid to take votes from other candidates such as pro-democracy politician Frederick Fung. None of them took the money.

Cheng Wing-kin. Photo: Apple Daily.

Cheng also conspired with two others to get one of them to stand as a candidate in a specified constituency, with a reward of between HK$150,000 and HK$200,000.

Cheng was convicted of six counts of engaging in corrupt conduct during an election in the District Court on Monday. Cheng and two others were found guilty of one count of conspiracy to engage in corrupt conduct during an election.

Chinese businessmen

The court heard that Cheng invited Sha Tin District Councillor Wong Hok-lai, Tsang Ka-lam of Shatin New Alliance of the Pragmatic and their colleagues to a dinner last July. During the meeting, Cheng offered HK$200,000 to Wong and an unspecified sum of money to Tsang to encourage candidates to stand in the Lee On, Tai Shui Hang and On Tai constituencies in Sha Tin.

Cheng told the duo that the money “may come from Chinese businessmen” who “don’t mind [the candidates] promoting localism and the Hong Kong city-state theory” or targeting pro-establishment politicians, Apple Daily reported. Cheng also said that the patrons had “unlimited money, manpower and resources” to help localists stand in the district elections.

Cheng uploaded a picture of the July meeting with Wong, Tsang and others onto Facebook. Photo: Apple Daily.

According to Wong, Cheng said that the businessmen would sponsor the candidates to run in the 2016 Legislative Council election if they “performed well,” and that there were targeted constituencies in all of the 18 districts. The duo turned down Cheng’s offer.

Targeting pro-democracy candidates

Cheng contacted Wong on the next day and offered him HK$200,000 to get a third person to either run in one of the three Sha Tin constituencies or a constituency outside Sha Tin with a view to targeting candidates such as longtime Sham Shui Po councillor Frederick Fung. Fung lost to a young pro-Beijing politician in the 2015 district elections.

The court heard that Cheng offered HK$150,000 each to Wong Chun-yeung of Tung Chung Future and Lee Man-ho of Cheung Sha Wan Community Establishment Power last summer to stand as candidates in about 20 constituencies. One of the constituencies was Lai Kok of Sham Shui Po, where Fung had served as a councillor before last year’s defeat.

According to Wong Chun-yeung, Cheng said that the patron is a Hong Kong-based mainland Chinese, but refused to disclose more details. Lee said Cheng had told him that the patron has businesses in mainland China, Taiwan and Hong Kong.

Wong Chun-yeung (left), Wong Hok-lai (second left), Sixtus Leung Chung-hang (middle), Tsang Ka-lam (second right), Lee Man-ho (right).

Cheng also proposed offering HK$150,000 to Youngspiration’s Sixtus Leung Chun-hang last August to get a third person to run in a constituency to be chosen from a pool of about 30 constituencies.

The five politicians all declined Cheng’s offer. Youngspiration then reported the incident to the Independent Commission Against Corruption.

Cheng argued in court that the plan was to investigate election conspiracies among localist and pan-democrat politicians in the District Council elections. The judge rejected his evidence on the basis that Cheng’s version of events was self-contradictory.

Layers of middlemen

Cheng told the court that a Mandarin-speaking man, whom he referred to as “Chief Li” and suspected was from Beijing’s United Front Work Department, was behind the plan. He said he was introduced to Li through layers of middlemen, including a former election campaigner for Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying.

The campaigner, Gao Lingxiang, introduced Cheng to a man surnamed Chan, Cheng told the court. Chan then introduced him to “Li and other bosses” in April.

Gao told Ming Pao that she did not know “Chief Li” and knew Cheng through a friend. She said she did not know the full name of “Mr. Chan,” and only knew that he has retired.

Shun Tak Centre. Photo: Wikicommons.

Around the time that Gao contacted Cheng, she worked for the pro-Beijing organisation New Home Association. Chief Executive Leung and Zhang Xiaoming of the China Liaison Office – Beijing’s powerful organ in Hong Kong – are the honorary patrons of the Association, Ming Pao reported.

In addition, 11 of the Association’s 19 directors are representatives of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference. The Association’s director, Xu Rongmao, is a senior Chinese official and purchased calligraphy by Zhang Xiaoming worth nearly HK$14 million at a fundraising event of the DAB, the largest pro-Beijing party in Hong Kong.

Gao, from Zhejiang, China, studied at Hong Kong Baptist University. Her parents are both government officials in China. She previously said that she was “heartbroken” to see a picture of Chief Executive Leung being photoshopped on social media.

Cheng previously worked as a host for the internet radio OurTV, which regularly invites politicians from different camps as guest speakers.


Ellie Ng

Ellie Ng has written for Foreign Policy, the Daily Telegraph, Global Voices Online and others.