Former Hong Kong student leader Owen Au was arrested by the Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC) at 7 a.m. on Tuesday for allegedly violating the Elections (Corrupt and Illegal Conduct) Ordinance, according to HKFP sources.

Former Hong Kong student leader Owen Au. File photo: Kelly Ho/HKFP.

Over seven months ago, Au shared a post by self-exiled democrat and former lawmaker Ted Hui on Facebook, which encouraged the public to cast blank votes in the first “patriots only” Legislative Council election last December.

Au shared the post shortly after three people were arrested last November for sharing Hui’s post. He wrote “fucking arrest me” in his Facebook caption.

An ICAC spokesperson confirmed with HKFP that a person was arrested for allegedly reposting a social media post which incited others to cast blank votes, or not to vote at the 2021 Legislative Council General Election. The arrestee had been released on bail.

Au was the former president of the Chinese University of Hong Kong’s (CUHK) student union. He was previously jailed for six months after being convicted for unlawful assembly, possession of items with intent to damage property and wearing a face covering during the 2019 protests and unrest.

File photo: GovHK.

Last January, a group of black-clad activists threw powder at security guards on the CUHK campus, urging other students to enter the premises without showing their student ID cards. Au was subsequently arrested again over the case and charged with unlawful assembly.

‘Resolute enforcement actions’

Hong Kong’s legislative election last December was the first since Beijing’s electoral overhaul that effectively barred opposition candidates from running and reduced democratic representation. 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.

Simon Peh, commissioner of the anti-graft watchdog, said in May that 10 people had been arrested for inciting others to cast invalid votes in elections, three of whom were convicted. All of those convicted were given suspended sentences of two months in prison.

Chair of the Electoral Affairs Commission, Justice Barnabas Fung, and Secretary for Constitutional and Mainland Affairs Erick Tsang, opening the first ballot box in Hong Kong’s first “patriots-only” Legislative Council election on December 19, 2021. Photo: Kyle Lam/HKFP.

Seven others remain wanted by the ICAC, including Sunny Cheung, a pro-democracy activist who fled to the US, and former district councillor Timothy Lee, who is in self-exile in the UK, according to Peh.

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

LATEST on the ‘patriots only’ poll

Support press freedom & help us surpass 1,000 monthly Patrons: 100% independent, governed by an ethics code & not-for-profit, Hong Kong Free Press is #PressingOn with impartial, award-winning, frontline coverage.

Lea Mok

Lea Mok is a multimedia reporter at Hong Kong Free Press. She previously contributed to StandNews, The Initium, MingPao and others. She holds a bachelor's degree in Journalism from the Chinese University of Hong Kong.