Corruption Spreads in Hong Kong – Suspected Bribery Case at University Election

Real Hong Kong News

1st November 2016

Corruption Spreads in Hong Kong – Suspected Bribery Case at University Election – Bribery Suspect Plans to Study in America

Recently Hong Kong University’s Student Union started a petition (closed on 31/October with over 2,400 signatures by students and alumni) requesting the University’s Council to investigate the suspected bribery in the Postgraduate representative election to the Hong Kong University (HKU) Council, after a complaint against one of the candidates was rejected by the Council.

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Zhu Ke, a candidate who stood at the election of a full-time Postgraduate Student to the HKU Council, was accused of giving out Red Packets to eligible voters in a WeChat group, and he subsequently won the election after the complaint being rejected.

The complaint was filed by Michael Mo Kwan-tai, also stood at the election. Mo received screenshots of Zhu Ke giving out Red Packets in a WeChat group named “New Hong Kong Youth” from multiple individuals, all appears to be sufficient evidence of Zhu’s alleged bribery action. The WeChat group is believed to be targeting HKU students from China. Mo’s complaint, however, was quickly rejected by the HKU Council which said that the RMB80 (USD) wroth Red Packet was “immaterial”.

 

When the complaint was rejected, some local HKU students expressed their disappointment in the Council’s decision by posting comments on the university’s Democracy Wall. Some exchange students from China, however, disagree with their views by replying to those comments saying that “Zhu only gave RMB80 to a group, not to each group member” and “giving out Red Packets is not bribery but a habit and purely for fun”.

In an interview published by The Initium, a new media allegedly backed by pro-China individuals, Zhu Ke rebuked all the accusations, and stressed that giving out Red Packets on WeChat group is a “habit and only for fun” and should not be regarded as bribery. He also said, “being a Mainland Chinese and the fact that this case involved money, I’d be condemned forever (in Hong Kong)”.

Zhu also commented that Hong Kong students overreact largely due to cultural difference as “giving out Red Packets is a common practice on WeChat which can spice up the atmosphere in a group”.

During the interview, Zhu also admitted that he is angry at Michael Mo for what he did (filing the complaint), and accused Mo of “taking things out of context” and “fabricating the event”, which all made him feel “a little disgusted”.

Zhu Ke, also hinted in the interview that he is the victim of this case, by saying that the whole situation has made him “sensitive” and “worried about going out”. He also said that he originally planned to study his PhD in Hong Kong but given what happened, he has now decided to further his education in the US. The Initium reporter asked him why he would give up Hong Kong permanent residency as he could have gained it should he spend three more years in Hong Kong, Zhu said, “once I get to the US, I can get a Green Card! Why would I want permanent residency in Hong Kong?”

In response to enquiry, ICAC said that there is no legal ground for the unit to investigate alleged corruption case in an election held in an academic institution.

Commented on the incident, Peter Mathieson, Vice-Chancellor of HKU, said that the incident was between students and does not affect the credibility of the university. He also said that he would respect the Council’s decision. Mo said that Mathieson’s comment was irresponsible given that Mathieson had a vote in the Council’s decision on the complaint against Zhu.

Zhu is successfully elected.

HKU’s Student Union’s statement about the case is available on its Facebook page.

(Source: Apple Daily, Headline Daily, The Initium and Stand News)
UPDATE: 18:40, 1st November 2016
Letter from the Registrar at HKU in response to the petition
Dear students, staff and alumni,

With reference to the petition to the Council by the Hong Kong University Students’ Union, Academic Staff Association and HKU Alumni Concern Group, the Chairman of the Council, as the spokesperson of the Council, wishes to make the following response.

(1) The Council considered at its meeting on October 25, 2016, the various materials, including the complaint received, the explanation proffered by the Respondent, the relevant legal principles and the precedent established by previous decisions of the Court for guidance (see 2 below).

(2) The Council took note of the following:

(a) None of the relevant Ordinances in Hong Kong specifically apply to an internal election within the University and further, the University itself does not currently have any specific rules regulating election related conduct.
(b) The judgment of the High Court in the case of the Secretary for Justice v Tam Heung Man [2012] HKEC 648 (“Judgment”), which was specifically brought to the attention of the Council, provides a good reference as to what constitutes corrupt conduct at an election. (Such Judgment sets out the legal principles when assessing whether any advantage was offered as an inducement to vote for a candidate. It was confirmed in the Judgment that in determining the intention of the relevant person the nature and value of any advantage could be taken into account.)
(c) The Respondent’s explanation, which included, amongst other things, that it was not his intention to bribe any person into voting for him and in this respect he referred to the insignificant value (about RMB 0.80 [RHKN Note: the total amount should be RMB80]) offered through the “Red Packet” by way of justification. (It was confirmed in the Judgment that in determining the intention of the relevant person, the nature and value of any advantage could be taken into account. Factors, such as whether the Respondent thought that anyone could be induced to vote for him by the offer of such a small amount of money, are linked to intention and could be considered.)

(d) An allegation of corrupt conduct at an election is a serious charge, and such allegations therefore would need to be proved by a preponderance of the evidence.
(3) On the basis of the materials before the Council and after careful deliberation, the Council resolved to dismiss the complaint.

(4) It was also recommended at the Council meeting that the University’s election regulations be reviewed and revised to provide further guidance to future candidates in light of this experience.

The Council Chairman is grateful to the student, staff and alumni groups for their concerns. It is hoped that the above has addressed the issues raised in the petition.

Yours sincerely,

H.W.K. Wai

Registrar

c.c. The Hong Kong University Students’ Union
Academic Staff Association of The University of Hong Kong
HKU Alumni Concern Group
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