Legislative Council President Andrew Leung has come under fire for rejecting lawmakers’ requests to question officials over two missing computers containing voter information.

Several lawmakers from the pro-Beijing and pro-democracy camps filed the requests after the Registration and Electoral Office (REO) admitted on Monday evening that it had lost two computers containing the personal data of all registered voters in the city.

Andrew Leung. File Photo: Stanley Leung/HKFP

The lawmakers wanted to hold an urgent Q&A session with government officials over the missing computers.

But Leung rejected the requests on Wednesday on the basis that the matter was not urgent.

Under section 24(4) of the Rules of Procedure, the legislature’s president may permit lawmakers to ask questions without notice if the issues are of “an urgent character” and of “public importance.”’

‘The harshest president’

Lawmaker Lam Cheuk-ting expressed disappointment at Leung’s decision and questioned Leung’s undisclosed definition of “urgency.” He said Leung appears to be harsher than his predecessors in terms of his rulings.

Leung’s predecessor Jasper Tsang previously approved urgent requests over last year’s roof collapse at the City University and the police’s decision to fire tear gas at protesters in 2014, among other cases.

Lam Cheuk-ting. File Photo: Democratic Party.

“Is Leung going to give his approval only in cases of a stock market crash or financial crisis?” a lawmaker’s aide asked in a Facebook post.

In response to Leung’s decision, 25 pro-democracy lawmakers wrote to him on Wednesday, demanding the president disclose his definition of “urgency” and explain whether he is using a different standard than his predecessors.

“We disagree with [your decision], nor can we understand it,” they said in the letter. “The data stored in the missing computers could be in the hands of criminals, leading to potential illegal activities. The Hong Kong public needs to know how the authorities will be handling the matter.”

“You have never approved any requests of this kind, thereby preventing lawmakers from fulfilling their duty to monitor the government, as well as violating Hong Kong people’s right to information,” they added.

Photo: HKFP.

See also: Hong Kong gov’t says lost election computers are encrypted and ‘extremely difficult to break through’

Police have classified the case as theft. The machines were being stored in a locked room at AsiaWorld-Expo, which was used as a backup polling station for Sunday’s chief executive election. Police investigators said there was no sign of a break-in, according to Ming Pao.

The REO has apologised for the distress it caused to Hong Kong voters.

On Tuesday, Leung rejected similar requests over last week’s escalator accident in Mong Kok, and a recent import ban on Brazilian poultry. Last month, he rejected requests to hold an urgent session over an MTR firebomb attack that left 19 injured.

Ellie Ng

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