Hours after Hong Kong police searched the office of an independent political pollster, pro-democracy parties in Hong Kong yesterday held primary elections to choose candidates for upcoming legislative elections, despite warnings from government officials that it might be in breach of new national security legislation imposed by China.
Pollster Robert Chung’s (鍾庭耀) Hong Kong Public Opinion Research Institute (HKPORI) is a co-organizer of the primaries for Hong Kong’s pro-democracy camp, which aim to select candidates who will stand the best chance of achieving a 35-plus majority in Hong Kong Legislative Council polls in September.
Chung said authorities arrived at his office and he “negotiated” with police to try to understand the basis for their search warrant.
Police copied some information from computers, he said.
Police told reporters that they had searched his office.
“The police received a report from the public that the computer system of a polling organization was suspected of being hacked and some personal information of the public was leaked,” they said in a statement. “The investigation is still ongoing and no one has been arrested.”
Chung told a news conference early yesterday that he was worried the information police obtained could be used in other investigations, but would do his best to protect his sources.
He did not describe the nature of the data taken.
“We obtained an oral promise that they wouldn’t use it for other investigations,” Chung said.
Last year, Chung, who has repeatedly been criticized by pro-Beijing forces who question the accuracy of his polls, broke away from a polling operation he oversaw at the University of Hong Kong to set up his independent HKPORI.
Former Hong Kong democracy lawmaker Au Nok-hin (區諾軒) said he believed the raid was related to the primary elections and was aimed at stoking fear in the community.
Meanwhile, thousands lined up in the intense summer heat at unofficial polling stations across the territory.
“The more Hong Kong people were suppressed, the firmer Hong Kong people stand,” democracy campaigner Benny Tai (戴耀廷), a legal academic and co-organiser of the primary, said as voting got under way at 250 polling stations.
As of 6pm yesterday more than 137,000 people had cast their votes, organizers said.
In interviews given to a select few pro-Beijing newspapers, Hong Kong Secretary for Constitutional and Mainland Affairs Erick Tsang (曾國衛) on Thursday said that those “organising, planning and participating” in the primary might commit offenses of succession, subversion and colluding with foreign forces.
The new legislation targets such acts with a maximum penalty of life imprisonment.
Hong Kong and Chinese government officials have said the laws are vital to plug gaping holes in national security defenses exposed by the months of anti-government and anti-China unrest.
Voting in the two-day primary continues today.
Additional reporting by AFP
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