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Hong Kong Watchdog Targets Two for Anti-Election Posts

A screenshot of the YouTube channel operated by current affairs commentator Martin Oei, who lives in Germany.
A screenshot of the YouTube channel operated by current affairs commentator Martin Oei, who lives in Germany.

Hong Kong’s anti-corruption body Tuesday charged 38-year-old programmer Man Wing-fung with inciting people not to vote, which was made illegal in 2021 as part of authorities’ efforts to crack down on critics.

Hong Kong’s Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC) also applied for a judge to issue an arrest warrant for 45-year-old Wong Sai-chak, a Hong Kong-born political commentator known online as Martin Oei who lives in Germany.

The ICAC accused Man of re-posting in late October and November comments by Wong that incited people to boycott Hong Kong’s 2023 district elections.

The post contained a link to a video in which Wong appealed to Hong Kong residents not to vote in what he told VOA was an “unjust election.”

The district elections are the first since Hong Kong’s so-called “patriots only” amendment to the election law in July, part of a series of restrictive laws that the island’s Beijing-friendly government has passed that have eroded Hong Kong’s political freedoms and autonomy.

The July amendment slashed the portion of directly elected representatives on local district councils, the last remaining political body that was mostly elected, to a third. The rest are appointed by authorities, who are keen to have a high voter turnout to back up the legitimacy of the elections.

The 2021 amendment to Hong Kong’s Election Ordinance made inciting others to boycott elections or spoiling a ballot punishable by up to three years in jail and a fine of $25,600 (HK$200,000).

Wong, who frequently posts political comments on his YouTube channel to 150,000 followers under the handle “Martin Oei,” was charged with violating three counts under the law.

Wong released a video response to ICAC’s arrest warrant, saying his work as a commentator on Radio Free Asia, an entity under the same federal agency as VOA, could be a reason why Hong Kong authorities are going after him.

He also said that he would not travel to China or Hong Kong or countries with extradition treaties with Beijing.

The charges and arrest warrant were issued the same day as Hong Kong’s Beijing-appointed Chief Executive John Lee gave a public warning against “sabotaging” the election.

Despite the arrest warrant, Wong said he would continue to produce his daily video comments.

In a phone interview with VOA Mandarin, Wong said: “In the face of such an unjust election, the ICAC goes after me this way and shows that it is even more unjust. I regret nothing. This is a badge of honor to me.”

Hong Kong’s South China Morning Post reported the Fanling Magistrates’ Court released Man on $640 bail (HK$5,000) and the case will resume in January.

Bo Gu contributed to this report.