A former assistant to the leader of Hong Kong’s largest pro-Beijing party and a volunteer worker were found guilty on Thursday of trying to bribe people to vote for the party during a 2018 by-election.

Wong Wai-ha, 52, a one-time assistant to Starry Lee, was convicted of “conspiring to engage in corrupt conduct at an election by offering an advantage to others” along with volunteer Deng Yimei, for providing gift bags to voters in the Legislative Council by-election.

Starry Lee (middle) and Vincent Cheng (right). Photo: DAB.

Media reports said the pair provided gift bags valued at around HK$100 each to residents of Hoi Lai Estate in Cheung Sha Wan, to persuade them to vote for incumbent lawmaker Vincent Cheng of the Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong (DAB).

Deputy Magistrate Peter Hui at the West Kowloon Magistrates’ Court acquitted two other defendants, Chan Wai-kuen and Li Mau, of “accepting an advantage as an inducement to vote,” Stand News reported.

Wong and Deng were remanded in custody pending sentencing on May 26. Hui said electoral fraud was a serious crime, and “all aspects of elections must be fair and just.” He said he would not consider obtaining reports regarding their suitability for community service.

Cheng won the West Kowloon constituency by a narrow margin of around 2,400 votes. The allegation of vote-buying with gift bags was first made by by pro-democracy district councillor Yeung Yuk, who published an audio recording made by a resident.

In the recording, a woman asked the resident: “Good morning, did your mother apply for a gift bag last time? They said in this [election], will your mother go to the DAB, this Sunday March 11, will she vote for no.2 (Cheng)?”

West Kowloon Magistrates’ Courts. Photo: Kelly Ho/HKFP.

“If you vote for no.2, they said they will register your name for you, will you vote? You check how many people [will vote] by that time. The next time they have something to give away, they will give to you. One for each person, you check how many people.”

“If you vote, you send your name, and you can write the names of the people in [your] building – then I will register for you.”

Cheng at the time denied the allegations to HKFP.

Starry Lee, the chair of the DAB, told HKFP that she and her office knew nothing about Wong’s actions and were not involved in the case.

“I know about the rough situation of the case from media reports, and know that one of the people involved was an assistant at my office. She did not contact me or ask me for help on the case, that’s why I cannot and should not carelessly comment,” said Lee.

HKFP has reached out to Vincent Cheng for comment.

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Candice Chau

Candice is a reporter at Hong Kong Free Press. She previously worked as a researcher at a local think tank. She has a BSocSc in Politics and International Relations from the University of Manchester and a MSc in International Political Economy from London School of Economics.