A man and a woman have pleaded guilty to inciting others to cast invalid votes in Hong Kong’s “patriots only” legislative election last year after sharing a social media post by self-exiled former lawmaker Ted Hui.
Defendants Chan Kin-man, 36, and Leung Yuet-sheung, 65, entered their guilty pleas at the Kwun Tong Magistrates’ Courts on Tuesday. They became the first people in Hong Kong to await sentencing under the new offence added to the Elections (Corrupt & Illegal Conduct) Ordinance last May as part of a sweeping overhaul to the city’s electoral system.
Salesperson Chan and office assistant Leung were charged by the Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC) in December last year after sharing a Facebook post by ex-Democratic Party legislator Hui from October 29, 2021.
The former lawmaker, who fled the city in late 2020 while facing at least nine criminal charges, urged Hongkongers to cast blank or invalid votes in the Legislative Council (LegCo) election on December 19 last year to express discontent at the government.
The Australia-based activist said the move was also to protest what he described as the curtailment of freedoms under the Beijing-imposed national security law, and told people to share his post to promote his plan.
Chan and Leung shared Hui’s call a day later, when nominations for the LegCo polls opened. The publicly viewable post was displayed on Chan’s profile until November 9, while it appeared on Leung’s page until December 16.
Principal Magistrate Bina Chainrai adjourned the cases to March 15 for sentencing while awaiting the defendants’ community service order and probation reports. Both Chan and Leung were granted cash bail.
Anyone who incites others not to vote, or to cast void ballots through public activity during the election period is liable on conviction to a maximum penalty of a three-year imprisonment and a fine of $200,000.
Local media cited the prosecution – led by Senior Public Prosecutor Peggy Leung – as telling the court on Tuesday that if the current case was tried as a summary offence, Chan and Leung could face a fine of up to HK$50,000 and one year behind bars.
An arrest warrant for Hui was issued by a local court last November over his calls on social media to encourage others to cast blank votes in the LegCo election.
Last December’s election marked Hong Kong’s first-ever legislative race under revamped rules set out by Beijing to ensure only “patriots” hold power in the city. The polls saw a record low voter turnout of 30.2 per cent, with only one of the 90 candidates elected not from the pro-establishment camp.
The government hailed the election as having “broad representation, political inclusiveness, balanced participation and fair competition.”
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