On March 27, a day after the chief executive election, staff of the Registration and Electoral Office (REO) found that two laptop computers, one of which contains the personal data of 3.78 million voters in Hong Kong, were missing at a back-up polling station at the Asia-World Expo.
The incident raised widespread concerns. Many were wondering why the REO would need to have the personal data of voters on election day when only 1,200 Election Committee members were eligible to vote.
The REO said it had to have the data ready in case they had to check the identity of Election Committee members, and reassured the public that all the data in the computer was encrypted.
Amid mounting public pressure, the Constitutional and Mainland Affairs Bureau set up a special task force led by a deputy permanent secretary of the bureau to probe the incident.
According to sources, the task force has already completed its investigation and finished writing its final report.
Secretary for Constitutional and Mainland Affairs Raymond Tam is due to report the probe results to the Legislative Council’s panel on constitutional affairs on June 19.
Sources said the report concludes that it is indeed unnecessary to keep the personal data of all 3.78 million voters handy at the polling station on the CE election day.
As such, the report recommends that all the REO staff need in the next CE election for identity checks is the personal data of all Election Committee members only, and nothing more.
The report suggests that in case members of the public just walk in and mistakenly think they have the right to vote, REO staff will ask for their ID card and then ring up the head office to verify their identity.
As far as security measures are concerned, the report does not rule out the possibility that gross negligence was involved in the loss of the two laptops.
It advises the REO staff to be more vigilant and not to leave computers and other devices unattended under all circumstances.
The report also strongly suggests that the REO not rely entirely on private security companies for security services at the CE election polling station in the future.
An REO officer of supervisory level should be put in charge of security at the venue.
Last month lawmaker Cheng Chung-tai of the Civic Passion invoked the Legislative Council (Powers and Privileges) Ordinance and sought an inquiry into the incident, only to be vetoed by the pro-establishment camp.
Secretary Tam, who will attend a Legco meeting for the last time in his current term of office on June 19, is expected to be grilled by the pan-democrats over the matter.
This article appeared in the Hong Kong Economic Journal on June 8
Translation by Alan Lee
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