A Hong Kong court has issued an arrest warrant for a political commentator accused of inciting people to not take part in Sunday’s district council election, while another man has been charged over reposting the former’s social media boycott call.
The move followed Chief Executive John Lee Ka-chiu’s fresh warning against those attempting to disrupt the coming election.
Pundit Wong Sai-chak, 45, is facing three counts of inciting others to boycott the coming poll during the election period by sharing a video and two posts on three social media platforms, according to the Independent Commission Against Corruption on Tuesday.
The anti-corruption agency said the arrest warrant for Wong, also known as Martin Oei, had been issued by a magistrate after the suspect had left the city. Wong’s official website shows his current contact address is in Düsseldorf, Germany.
Meanwhile, Man Wing-fung, a 38-year-old analyst programmer who reposted Wong’s social media post, was charged with one count of engaging in illegal conduct to incite another person not to vote. He is expected to appear before Fanling Magistrates’ Court on Tuesday afternoon.
While the corruption-buster did not specify the video in question, live footage Wong recorded on his YouTube channel on October 31 said that voting in the district council election would be a “waste of time” and called for “treating this election as if it never happened”.
Under Hong Kong’s Elections (Corrupt and Illegal Conduct) Ordinance amended in 2021, inciting others to boycott elections is an offence punishable by up to three years in jail and a fine of HK$200,000 (US$25,590).
The chief executive said earlier on Tuesday that the city’s law enforcement agencies would take strict action against such behaviour.
“I once again warn anyone against attempts to sabotage this election. Citizens should exercise their civic duty rationally by voting, as electing your preferred district councillors is very important to your everyday life in the community,” Lee said before the weekly Executive Council meeting.
In recent weeks, authorities have made an all-out effort to increase voter turnout. The Social Welfare Department, for example, is offering a one-off grant of HK$20,000 to community centres for arrangements to facilitate voting for the elderly.
Lee also said the measure of “convenience” would not influence the voting decisions of people, but he did not answer reporters’ questions on whether authorities were concerned that a low turnout might underline the legitimacy of the first district council poll after the “patriots-only” electoral overhaul.
A total of 399 candidates are running for 264 seats on Sunday, but most of the more than 4 million registered city voters will only get to choose 88 councillors. The remaining 176 seats will be decided by about 2,500 members of the three local committees in each district.
To encourage Hongkongers in mainland China to vote, the government will turn two schools near Sheung Shui MTR station into polling facilities for the December 10 vote. Any voters from across the city have until 6pm on Tuesday to register to use these stations.
Justice David Lok Kai-hong, chairman of the Electoral Affairs Commission, said 11,427 voters had registered to vote near the border as of Monday. While the two facilities would have a combined capacity of 38,000, Lok said he did not find sign-ups to be “too low”.
He added that providing transport to voters would not generally be considered an offence as long as there were no benefits from voting for a specific candidate involved.
Lok also said on Tuesday that election organisers had received a total of 1,198 poll-related complaints by November 27, including 725 about advertising and 268 cases about nuisance.
Additional reporting by Harvey Kong