Police have arrested two Chinese men for breaking into an official car belonging to Development Secretary Eric Ma Siu-cheung. The duo, aged 23 and 28, held two-way travel permits from the mainland.
A tablet computer and government documents were stolen from the vehicle parked at the Hong Kong Science Museum in Tsim Sha Tsui. The tablet’s files have been remotely wiped, according to the police.
The incident took place at around 7pm on Tuesday, when both Ma and his driver were away from the car. Ma was attending an event nearby. The documents and the tablet have since been retrieved by the police from the nearby Urban Council Centenary Garden.
The police said it would not rule out a connection to two other similar cases in Mong Kok and Sham Shui Po which occurred on the same day.
In CCTV footage, a man was seen smashing a window, taking the items and escaping within just seven seconds.
Secretary Ma did not make any remarks on the incident. A statement from his bureau on Tuesday night said it was able to prevent the tablet from functioning through remote control. It also said the stolen documents did not contain any personal data belonging to the public.
After meeting Ma on Wednesday, pro-Beijing lawmaker Edward Lau Kwok-fun cited him as saying that he did not believe the government internal documents stolen could be sold for profit.
Lau also said, after reviewing the CCTV footage, that Ma believed the thieves were habitual offenders, who may have had the idea of stealing the items as the briefcase holding them looked attractive.
Before the arrest, pro-democracy lawmakers expressed their concerns over the theft, as Ma has the capacity to obtain top secret land policy documents.
“It is utterly irresponsible and risky to put the documents in the car and let the driver to attend to them,” Democratic Party lawmaker Lam Cheuk-ting said.
IT sector lawmaker Charles Mok asked Ma to state whether the tablet computer had any encryption, any GPS tracking device, and whether there were means to completely delete all data remotely.
Mok also questioned whether anyone was breaking any government regulations by leaving the tablet and the documents in an unattended car.
“The continuous series of serious incidents where government data was stolen is completely unacceptable – it shows the government’s information security awareness is extremely low, [and] the way of handling classified information was careless,” he said.
The Registration and Electoral Office recently lost two election laptops at a backup site for the chief executive election on Lantau. One of the laptops contained personal information for all 3.78 million voters.
The machines were later revealed to have been stored in a locked room, but there was no one guarding them, nor were there signs of a break-in.