Volunteers for pro-democracy by-election candidate Lee Cheuk-yan have accused a reporter from a pro-Beijing newspaper of infiltrating their team.
Lau Siu-lai, who was barred by the government from running in the Sunday legislative by-election, has been helping Lee, of the Labour party, in his campaign. Lau confirmed to HKFP that the Ta Kung Pao reporter joined the team in mid-October for around five weeks, after Lau had been disqualified from the race.
The newspaper ran a report on November 9 with a photo of a meeting between Lee and his volunteers, to which only volunteers had been invited. The reporter, surnamed Sheung, also wrote several other pieces attacking Lee and his team. But Lau said the reporter told the team their surname was “Lai.”
The incident was reported by a volunteer who shared a Facebook update on Wednesday warning that a Ta Kung Pao reporter had infiltrated the team after Lau had told them about it. A photo of the reporter was attached in the Facebook post.
Lau told HKFP that her team members had found the reporter’s behaviour during volunteer meeting strange. “She kept asking about other volunteers’ names and roles, and was secretly making an audio recording of the meeting by phone,” Lau said.
Lau said that the reporter wrote several reports in an attempt to ruin the relationship between her Democracy Groundwork group and the Labour Party, to no avail.
Lau said she removed the reporter from the group after she failed to show up to a meeting she requested.
“I told her before I removed her from the group: Being a journalist, I believe you understand what the difficulties for Hong Kong’s pro-democracy movement are,” she said. “I know it is difficult to earn a living, but I hope you will not betray Hong Kong in order to earn a living.”
Lau said she did not believe the reporter obtained any sensitive information.
Lee Cheuk-yan said he understood the difficulties of frontline reporters and said Ta Kung Pao should take the blame for using its reporters as undercover political agents.
“The behaviour of Ta Kung Pao shows that the pro-Beijing camp in Hong Kong and Chinese companies will use all means to support [pro-Beijing candidate] Rebecca Chan,” he said.
HKFP has reached out to Ta Kung Pao for comment.
In December 2016, a Ta Kung Pao reporter was arrested for allegedly fighting in public with localist Edward Leung in August, but the charges were dropped. In April 2017, journalists from the newspaper were accused of harassing the team behind a documentary on Hong Kong’s deadly 1967 leftist riots, injuring one of the film’s volunteer staff.
Other candidates for the November 25 by-election for the Kowloon West geographical constituency include Frederick Fung, Ng Dick-hay and Judy Tzeng.