Hong Kong police have arrested four civil servants for “conspiracy to defraud” after they were suspected of using Covid-19 vaccine exemption certificates obtained without prior diagnosis.

covid-19 coronavirus vaccine
Coronavirus vaccination in Hong Kong. File photo: GovHK.

Superintendent Alan Chung of the Kowloon West regional crime unit told reporters on Friday afternoon that four women, aged 25 to 48, were arrested in Tin Shui Wai, Kwun Tong, Sha Tin and Hung Hum during a police operation earlier in the day.

According to Chung, three of the arrestees worked at the Social Welfare Department, while the other was employed by the Education Bureau as a public school teacher.

The four had allegedly purchased vaccine exemption certificates from six doctors who were previously arrested or currently wanted on suspicion of issuing the document without prior diagnosis.

Chung said each of the four had bought at least two certificates, and paid between HK$500 and HK$2,500 for them.

The four women remained in police custody, the officer added.

Alan Chung
Superintendent Alan Chung of the Kowloon West regional crime unit. Photo: Hong Kong Police Force, via video screenshot.

As of Friday, Chung said the police have arrested six doctors and issued a warrant for the apprehension of another in their crackdown on the improper issuing of vaccination exemptions. A total of seven clinic staff and 26 customers have been arrested as well, including the four on Friday.

“As civil servants, I think [they] should set an example for others,” Chung said. “Fraudulently obtaining vaccine exemption proof through illegal means is a selfish act. It not only increases the risk of infection to oneself, but also increases the risks for their co-workers and the members of the public they serve.”

Reasons behind the arrests

When asked by reporters asked about the basis of police actions, Chung said they had “comprehensively reviewed” all relevant evidence before making the arrests, which included the price of the vaccination exemptions as well as the patients’ medical history.

Doctor Covid-19 false exemption arrest
A 65-year-old doctor was arrested on September 27, 2022 for allegedly issuing false Covid-19 vaccination exemption certificates. File photo: Hong Kong Police.

Chung added that they had asked for the opinions from medical experts before taking action as well.

“It does not mean that if you have a vaccination exemption from these [suspected] doctors, then we will arrest you,” Chung said. “Only when we have reasonable suspicion that the certificates were obtained with false statements or information we will make arrests.”

The Civil Service Bureau told HKFP that the government attached great importance to its employees’ conduct, and that relevant departments would follow up on the matter.

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Peter Lee is a reporter for HKFP. He was previously a freelance journalist at Initium, covering political and court news. He holds a Global Communication bachelor degree from CUHK.