The office in charge of elections in Hong Kong was ridiculed on Monday for its “nonsensical” account of why it transported the personal data of nearly 3.8 million registered voters to a back-up venue for the chief executive ballot, only to have it stolen a week ago. The Registration and Electoral Office said the information was needed to check the identities of Election Committee members entering the venue at the AsiaWorld-Expo. Facing criticism that such reasoning made no sense because all that was required was a list of the 1,194 committee members tasked to pick the city’s leader instead of the entire electorate at large, the office admitted its procedures had been “inappropriate” in hindsight.
Grilled by lawmakers on the Legislative Council’s Finance Committee, chief electoral officer Wong See-man revealed that the follow-up apology to voters had cost taxpayers HK$5 million.
Two laptops containing the voters’ data were stolen around the time of the chief executive election on March 26, prompting concerns about one of the worst breaches of privacy in the city.
Apologising again, Wong said the personal data was stored in a voter information inquiry system that could verify voters’ identity by inputting their ID numbers.
The system is used for other local elections, such as helping police identify voters such as inmates who cast ballots.