Two people who were convicted of inciting others to cast invalid votes in Hong Kong’s “patriots only” legislative election last December have been given suspended sentences of two months’ in prison.

Principal Magistrate Bina Chainrai handed down the sentences to Chan Kin-man, 36, and Leung Yuet-sheung, 65, at Kwun Tong Magistrates’ Court on Tuesday afternoon.

Kwun Tong Magistrates’ Courts. Photo: GovHK.

The pair were accused of sharing a Facebook post by self-exiled pro-democracy lawmaker Ted Hui calling on Hongkongers to cast blank or invalid votes in the Legislative Council (LegCo) election. As part of Beijing’s sweeping electoral overhaul, the authorities amended electoral laws last year, making it illegal to incite others to cast invalid votes and obstruct others from voting.

Chan and Leung pleaded guilty in February after being charged by the Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC), Hong Kong’s anti-corruption watchdog, last December.

Hong Kong held its first “patriots only” LegCo election at the close of last year, the first since Beijing’s electoral overhaul that effectively barred members of the opposition from running. The poll saw a record low turnout of 30.2 per cent, with all but one of the 90 seats won by pro-establishment candidates.

A polling station at the Hennessy Road Government Primary School in Wan Chai. Photo: Kyle Lam/HKFP.

The ICAC arrested 10 people on suspicion of calling for invalid votes last November and December. It also issued seven arrest warrants to overseas political activists, including Hui, Nathan Law and Sunny Cheung.

The maximum penalty upon conviction is a three-year jail sentence and a fine of HK$200,000.

‘Resolute enforcement actions’

In a statement published a day before the LegCo elections, the ICAC said the public is “again reminded to abide by the law” and “not to engage in making illegal appeals or repost unlawful contents in order to uphold a fair and clean election.” It warned of “resolute enforcement actions.”

An ICAC branch in Jordan. Photo: Selina Cheng/HKFP.

According to the ICAC, Chan and Leung shared Hui’s post on October 30. It was displayed on Chan’s social media page until November 9, while Leung’s post was displayed until December 16.

Delivering the verdicts on Tuesday, Chainrai said Hui’s post asked people to “express dissatisfaction of the government” and was not merely a call to cast blank votes.

She began with a starting sentence of three months and reduced it to two months, suspended for a year and a half, taking into account that both defendants were first-time offenders and had expressed regret.

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Hillary Leung

Hillary has an interest in social issues and politics. Previously, she reported on Asia broadly - including on Hong Kong's 2019 protests - for TIME Magazine and covered local news at Coconuts Hong Kong.