Two women, a mainland visitor and a Hong Kong resident, have been respectively sentenced to four months and three months in jail for falsifying voter documents in the lead-up to the District Council elections last year.
The mainlander, Hong Xiulian, 58, and her niece Hung Yin-yuk, 48, were accused of registering 13 relatives and friends as voters without their consent between April and June last year.
Hong earlier pleaded guilty to seven counts of forgery at the Fanling Magistrates’ Courts whilst Hung admitted to 13 counts of the same charge.
The defense lawyer pleaded in mitigation on Wednesday that their conduct did not constitute vote rigging, as both women had little understanding of Hong Kong politics or interest in it, and the 13 victims did not vote in the 2015 elections.
The lawyer added that Hung did not premeditate the crime and was only motivated by respect for elders in helping Hong fill out the registration forms, according to Apple Daily.
Deputy magistrate Minnie Wat Lai-man said that Hung, being younger and educated, should have corrected Hong rather than helping her commit crimes. Hung also proactively collected the personal information of six people, the magistrate said.
Hong, who holds a two-way permit, said in defense that an organisation specialising in “family reunion” had told her that filling out voter registration forms would speed up her residency application process.
Wat urged the prosecution to investigate the “suspicious” organisation, according to local media reports.
The magistrate said that Hong Kong’s electoral freedom was not easy to come by, and that the women’s actions had destroyed the fairness and credibility of the elections. Hence, the court did not consider the women’s lack of interest in politics to be a mitigation factor.
The Registration and Electoral Office rejected the 13 voter registration forms last year on June 30 upon discovering that the handwriting on them looked similar. Police reportedly found that the addresses on the forms were those of properties belonging to Hung, her husband and her husband’s sister-in-law.