A former pro-democracy district councillor has been granted bail after being arrested by Hong Kong’s anti-corruption watchdog for allegedly inciting others to cast blank votes in the Legislative Council (LegCo) election last year.

kenneth cheung tuen mun
Former Tuen Mun Rural district councillor Kenneth Cheung. Photo: Kenneth Cheung via Facebook.

Kenneth Cheung, who was elected in 2019 to serve the Tuen Mun Rural constituency, was arrested on Tuesday afternoon, according to HK01.

Cheung was accused by the Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC) of violating the Elections (Corrupt and Illegal Conduct) Ordinance. He allegedly shared a social media post by former lawmaker Ted Hui last November which called for people to cast an invalid vote in the LegCo election.

An ICAC spokesperson confirmed with HKFP that it arrested a person on Tuesday “for allegedly displaying on his social media page a post which incited others to cast invalid votes at the 2021 Legislative Council General Election during the election period… The arrestee had been released on bail.”

Local media said authorities searched Cheung’s home before taking him to the ICAC’s North Point headquarters to interview him. He was later released on bail and required to report to the ICAC in September.

Hours after being released, Cheung appeared to try to update his supporters by posting the Chinese phrase “safe” on his Facebook.

kenneth cheung
Former Tuen Mun Rural district councillor Kenneth Cheung. Photo: Kenneth Cheung via Facebook.

The anti-graft watchdog also arrested former student leader Owen Au on Tuesday on the same offence. He was also released on bail.

‘Patriots-only’ election

Beijing imposed an electoral overhaul in March last year as part of a bid to ensure only “patriots” hold power in the city. The LegCo election last December was the first one under the new system, which effectively bars opposition candidates from running and sharply reduces the number of directly elected seats.

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. It also had the highest percentage of blank votes, at about two per cent of the total, since the Handover in 1997.

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Almond Li is a Hong Kong-based journalist who previously worked for Reuters and Happs TV as a freelancer, and as a reporter at Hong Kong International Business Channel, Citizen News and Commercial Radio Hong Kong. She earned her Masters in Journalism at the University of Southern California. She has an interest in LGBT+, mental health and environmental issues.