REO Files Police Report 2 Years After Losing Register

April 11, 2019

NewsStandOnline.Net (11-April-2019): The Registration and Electoral Office (REO) said that it has reported to the police about a 2016 incident wherein a register containing information on thousands of voters had gone missing.

A police report was filed as it has been confirmed that a voter registry that was used in the Legislative Council election could not be found, the government agency said.  Going by the announcement, a complaint has been lodged more than two and a half years after the actual incident took place.

The silence was broken only after media reports surfaced last week about the missing folder that had personal data on as many as 8,000 voters.  Secretary for Constitutional and Mainland Affairs Patrick Nip Tak-kuen was forced to admit over the weekend that the incident exposed problems in the administrative management of the REO.

Taking belated action, the electoral office said last night that it has also informed the Office of the Privacy Commissioner for Personal Data (OPCPD) about the missing register.

According to the REO, the register was used at a polling station located at SKH Tsing Yi Estate Ho Chak Wan Primary School in Kwai Tsing in the New Territories West constituency for the Sept. 4, 2016 Legco election.

Containing information including the name, sex, address and Hong Kong Identity Card number and number of ballot papers entitled by individual voters assigned to that polling station, the register was nowhere to be found after the election.

Explaining what happened, Chief Electoral Officer Wong See-man said at a press conference that the REO has looked for the register in six warehouses, 13,000 ballot boxes and 3,400 suitcases used to transport election-related equipment but still failed to recover it.

According to Wong, the person in charge of the polling station that day failed to give an account of what had exactly happened.  Noting that he was not notified by REO staff when a law enforcement authority asked to see the register in October 2016, Wong admitted there was an internal communication problem at that time and apologized to the public.

REO Files Police Report 2 Years After Losing Register

The law enforcement authority was said to be the Independent Commission Against Corruption, which investigated a “vote-rigging” case in the Legco information technology functional constituency election in 2016 and accidentally exposed the loss of the elector register concerned.

Nip, who also attended the press conference, told media that the authorities had not learnt about the missing register until last week, expressing regret over the incident and calling it unacceptable.  Offering his apology to those affected, Nip said he has requested the REO to fully cooperate with the police and the OPCPD in their investigations on the matter.

The Electoral Affairs Commission (EAC), meanwhile, also instructed the REO to fully cooperate in the related investigations and submit a detailed report. The report is expected to be completed in eight weeks after the work begins.

Asked why the loss of the register had not been confirmed earlier, Nip did not offer details, saying a police investigation is underway. The official also did not respond when questioned about the identity of the person who had first detected the loss.   However, he promised that if it is found that “human errors” or “deliberate cover-up” was involved, his bureau will act in accordance with the established disciplinary mechanism.

Calling the incident very serious, lawmaker Charles Mok Nai-kwong, who represents the information technology sector, said he is concerned as to whether intentional concealment by public officers or destruction of evidence was involved. He urged the police to investigate the matter thoroughly.

Alice Mak Mei-kuen, a lawmaker representing the Hong Kong Federation of Trade Unions in the New Territories West geographical constituency, urged authorities to look into whether someone stole the data from the missing register.