Pro-Beijing newspaper Headline Daily has retracted a false report claiming that 1,500 voters of the education sector were “transferred” to the IT sector by a teachers’ union in order to secure a seat for the incumbent pro-democracy IT lawmaker.
The Registration and Electoral Office last week confirmed that only 72 people had made the switch since the 2012 register. The IT sector lawmaker, Charles Mok, said the newspaper had failed to apologise to him, the affected groups, and the public.
The newspaper first made the claim in a front page report on August 25. The Standard newspaper, under the same ownership, also covered the story on its front page on the same day, but did not make a retraction on Friday.
In Headline Daily’s retraction notice on Friday’s A6 page, it said it originally found 268 people with the same name switched from the education sector to the IT sector, after comparing the 2012 register of the education sector and the 2016 register of the IT sector, and therefore they “deduced according to ratio” that 1,500 voters made the switch between 2012 and 2016.
After the election office confirmed only 72 people made the switch, the paper followed up and collected voters’ addresses to cross-check. It found 73 had made the switch, which was very close to the official figure.
“According to this result, we primarily think that the people with the same name in the registers could mostly be different people. Based on this discovery, we decided to retract the deduction that 1,500 education sector voters with the same names [as in the IT sector register] made a switch in sectors,” the newspaper wrote.
“In responding to this retraction, our editorial team said that the related reports were made in consideration of the importance of the issue in the election, and voters’ concerns. We wished to publish as soon as possible with the resources available. During the process, Headline Daily has conducted investigations with principles of fairness, justice, and objectivity, and we hope we can make improvements in the future.”
But Mok said the false reports hurt his reputation and that of the IT sector, and the newspaper failed to mention the affected people and groups.
“The related untrue reports were published on the front page of Headline Daily in the past few days,” he said in a statement. “In order to avoid the public being misled, I demand Headline Daily and its parent group Sing Tao News Corporation give us the same treatment on their websites and newspapers, that they apologise to the public, the affect groups, and me before September 3.”
Mok also reported suspected vote-rigging activities in the sector to the Independent Commission Against Corruption on Thursday.
Eric Yeung Chuen-sing, Mok’s opponent in the election, reported Mok to the anti-graft agency, saying that he had urged voters to join an industry association to obtain voter status, in relation to the Headline Daily reports.
Mok accused Yeung of smearing him using the reports that had been proved to be wrong: “Eric Yeung, lies would not be turned into truth even if you say it ten times.”