An executive officer working for the government filed a police report on Wednesday after lawmaker Ted Hui took her phone outside a Legislative Council meeting room. Hui apologised and acknowledged wrongdoing over the incident, but claimed that the phone contained many personal details of lawmakers and the officer may have violated privacy laws.
The incident occurred on Tuesday morning outside a meeting room where the bills committee was discussing the high-speed rail joint checkpoint arrangement. The officer, who works for the Security Bureau, was trying to prevent the meeting from being adjourned prematurely owing to lack of quorum.
She was perusing a sheet of paper containing lawmakers’ photos and using her phone to call lawmakers and ask them to return to the meeting. Without her permission, Hui took the document and the phone away from her and entered a male washroom to look through the device. It was later returned to the officer.
Executive officers are responsible for administrative tasks. Those working in the legislative council building – commonly known to lawmakers as paparazzi – are often assigned to keep track of lawmakers and their whereabouts.
Hui, a Democratic Party lawmaker, apologised on Wednesday afternoon. He said he would apologise to the officer directly if he had a chance.
“I have been concerned about the issue of ‘paparazzi’ officers, so I hoped to find out directly what details they have,” he said.
He said he looked at the phone for ten minutes inside the washroom, and found that it contained a large amount of information concerning lawmakers’ entry and departure from the legislature, and their locations inside the LegCo building in the past three months.
“I am sure this violates lawmakers’ privacy,” he said, adding that he will file a complaint to the privacy commissioner.
“I hope the government can stop the surveillance of lawmakers.”
Democratic Party chair Wu Chi-wai said he did not agree with Hui’s actions.
He said Hui will have to report to the party’s central committee, and the party will cooperate with the police.
Lawmaker Regina Ip, the chair of the bills committee, said the officer was shocked by the incident and burst into tears after her phone was taken.
“This is very serious,” Ip said. “I believe it can be dealt with as a case of common assault.”
She said the government should take the incident seriously, and the pro-establishment camp will consider how to condemn Hui.
Ip also said Hui’s behaviour should be looked into, as he may have invaded the officer’s privacy.
Secretary for Security John Lee said Hui’s behaviour was “barbaric.”
“I am very discontented and I will not accept this,” he said. “Civil servants performing their duties in the Legislative Council building should be protected from fear of harassment, interference and threats.”
Lee said the officer’s duties only included reporting lawmakers’ locations, such as whether they were inside the LegCo building – information that is publicly available.
He added that the police will follow up with the case in accordance with procedures, but the Security Bureau will not intervene in the investigation.
Chief Secretary Matthew Cheung also condemned the incident.
Cheung denied that the phone contained the personal information of lawmakers. He said it contained only their attendance and vote count, which enable the government to plan ahead. “There was no question of invasion of privacy here,” he said.
He also said the Legislative Council Commission – a body formed by lawmakers to handle administrative matters – and the Privacy Commissioner previously asked about the work of the executive officers in the legislature, and they confirmed there was no violation of laws.
Cheung said he will write to LegCo President Andrew Leung about the incident.