The government has reported the loss of a register containing the personal data of 8,000 voters to the police – more than two years after it went missing.

Secretary for Constitutional and Mainland Affairs Patrick Nip had said that it was unacceptable that the Registration and Electoral Office (REO) had failed to report the incident to officials and residents for over two years. The loss was made known to the REO after the 2016 Legislative Council election.

The incident was first reported by i-Cable news last week. Nip said he and Chief Electoral Officer Wong See-man only knew about the incident after the news report.

Patrick Nip. Photo: RTHK screenshot.

Meeting the press on Monday morning, Nip said the register was yet to be found and the REO has reported the case to the police and the Office of the Privacy Commissioner for Personal Data.

He also said the REO should examine whether there were unusual changes to the voter registration details of the 8,000 affected people.

“I am very disappointed by the incident and I apologise to the affected people,” Nip said.

Nip said that disciplinary procedures will be launched if the government finds there were any personal errors made, or a deliberate cover-up.

The missing register was for the polling station at the SKH Tsing Yi Estate Ho Chak Wan Primary School in the Wai Ying constituency of New Territories West. The register contained the names, sex, addresses and identity card numbers of voters, as well as a record of the number of ballots each voter is eligible for.

Registration and Electoral Office, and the Electoral Affairs Commission. Photo: Citizen News.

The REO has to keep election-related documents for six months after an election before being destroyed, unless there are election petitions. The loss was discovered because the Independent Commission Against Corruption was looking into a case of vote-rigging in the IT sector election.

Nip said the REO will notify residents as well as relevant government departments which often handle personal data.

2016 LegCo election ad. Photo: GovHK.

The Electoral Affairs Commission, an independent body which manages elections, will also launch an investigation. A report is expected to be completed in eight weeks.

The REO said there was no evidence showing there was any leak of personal information.

‘Confidence’ in vote

IT sector lawmaker Charles Mok said the case must be thoroughly investigated to check if there was any deliberate destruction of evidence.

“The register does not only contain personal data, but also voting records. It may harm the confidence of residents to vote in the future,” he said.

Charles Mok. Photo: Charles Mok.

In 2017, the REO confirmed that it lost two computers – used during the chief executive election – containing the personal data of all 3.7 million registered voters in the city.

Mok said the new incident was not an individual one.

“It shows the REO has serious holes and administrative misconduct in its internal management and monitoring,” he said.

Mok has filed a complaint to the Ombudsman’s office.

Kong Tsung-gan‘s new collection of essays – narrative, journalistic, documentary, analytical, polemical, and philosophical – trace the fast-paced, often bewildering developments in Hong Kong since the 2014 Umbrella Movement. As Long As There Is Resistance, There Is Hope is available exclusively through HKFP with a min. HK$200 donation. Thanks to the kindness of the author, 100 per cent of your payment will go to HKFP’s critical 2019 #PressForFreedom Funding Drive. 

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.