An ex-university student leader is among two people charged with allegedly inciting others to cast blank votes during last year’s Legislative Council (LegCo) elections, according to the Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC).

jacky so
Jacky So. Photo: Jacky So via Facebook.

Jacky So, a former student union president of the Chinese University of Hong Kong (CUHK), and a 58-year-old welfare worker named Chan Sing were charged separately.

“The two defendants each faces [sic] one count of engaging in illegal conduct to incite another person not to vote, or to cast invalid vote, by activity in public during election period, contrary to Section 27A(1) of the Elections (Corrupt and Illegal Conduct) Ordinance (ECICO),” the ICAC said in a press release on Wednesday.

They allegedly shared a social media post by former pro-democracy lawmaker Ted Hui which called on people to cast invalid votes between October and December last year.

Independent Commission Against Corruption. File photo: Supplied.

So was arrested in December last year. The ICAC did not name him at the time, but local media reported that the 22-year-old activist was among those arrested.

The duo were released on bail. They will appear at the West Kowloon Magistrates’ Courts on Friday to enter a plea. They face a jail term of up to three years and a fine of HK$200,00, if convicted.

Hui, who is in self-exile in Australia, remains wanted over his original Facebook post that asked people to boycott the “fake election.”

Ongoing law enforcement actions

A former pro-democracy district councillor was arrested less than two weeks ago over the same incident. The anti-graft watchdog accused Kenneth Cheung of the same offence. Another former student leader Owen Au, also from CUHK, was arrested in the same week. Both were released on bail.

2021 LegCo Election vote counting Barnabas Fung Erick Tsang
Secretary for Constitutional and Mainland Affairs Erick Tsang (second from left) and Chairman of the Electoral Affairs Commission Barnabas Fung (second from right) pour ballots from a ballot box in the Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre on December 20, 2021. Photo: GovHK.

According to previous press releases and news reports, at least a dozen people have been arrested over Hui’s blank vote message.

‘Patriots-only’ election

In March, 2021, Beijing passed legislation to ensure “patriots” govern Hong Kong. The move reduced democratic representation in the legislature, tightened control of elections and introduced a pro-Beijing vetting panel to select candidates. The Hong Kong government said the overhaul would ensure the city’s stability and prosperity. But the changes also prompted international condemnation, as it makes it near-impossible for pro-democracy candidates to stand.

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 saw 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.