Hong Kong’s Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC) will deploy 800 officers to handle “unexpected events” at this year’s Legislative Council polls, and has pledged to monitor social media for illegal content seeking to obstruct or undermine the “patriots only” election.

ICAC Director of Community Relations Ho Wai-chi (right). Photo: Stand News.

Deployed officers will handle complaints and enquiries from voters and take action where necessary. They will also monitor activities related to the election including those on social media, Stand News reported ICAC Director of Community Relations Ho Wai-chi as saying.

“Do not engage in any behaviour that may manipulate or undermine the election,” Ho warned. This included “forwarding or sharing messages urging others to cast blank or spoiled ballots.” Hong Kong amended its election laws in May, making it illegal to incite others to cast invalid votes and to obstruct others from voting.

Watch out for incitement

People should not obstruct or prevent others from voting nor lure or use deceptive means to sway voters’ decisions, Ho added. However, he did not respond to reporters’ questions on whether giving “likes” to a social media post may constitute incitement.

The officers deployed on election day would quickly respond to any actions suspected of breaching the Elections (Corrupt and Illegal Conduct) Ordinance, Ho said. The ICAC has already received six complaints related to calls for blank votes, as of November 12.

In March, Beijing passed a decision to ensure only “patriots” govern Hong Kong. The electoral amendments reduced democratic representation in the legislature, tightened control of elections and introduced a pro-Beijing vetting panel to select candidates.

Publicity materials promoting the Legislative Council election scheduled on December 19, 2021. File Photo: Kelly Ho/HKFP.

The legislature was expanded to include 90 seats from the previous 70, but those to be elected directly by voters in geographical districts across Hong Kong on December 19 have been nearly halved from 35 to 20.

While about a dozen candidates said to be non-pro-establishment will join the race after passing a national security vetting committee, most other pro-democracy politicians are either behind bars, disqualified from elections or have fled Hong Kong.

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Selina Cheng

Selina Cheng is a Hong Kong journalist who previously worked with HK01, Quartz and AFP Beijing. She also covered the Umbrella Movement for AP and reported for a newspaper in France. Selina has studied investigative reporting at the Columbia Journalism School.