Poll body ordered to suspend public access to voter registers

October 23, 2019 14:48
The Court of Appeal said doxxing cannot be tolerated in Hong Kong, which is a civilized society that respects the rule of law. Photo: HKEJ

The Court of Appeal has ruled that the Electoral Affairs Commission (EAC) should suspend its usual practice of allowing public access to registers of voters that reveal their names and addresses.

Tuesday's ruling is a victory for the Junior Police Officers' Association (JPOA), which argued that the long-standing practice would endanger the safety of officers and their families, the Hong Kong Economic Journal reports.

Last week the JPOA , which has over 25,000 members, applied for a judicial review of the practice and asked for the issuance of an interim injunction. After the High Court turned down the request, the association filed an appeal against the decision.

In its ruling, the appeal court agreed with the JPOA that the practice could aggravate the practice of "doxxing" by some anti-government protesters, who have leaked the personal information of officers and their families online.

Calling the situation "shocking", the court said doxxing cannot be tolerated in Hong Kong, which is a civilized society that respects the rule of law.

Doxxing must be deterred; otherwise, the general public’s faith in law and order would be eroded because of distrust, fear and hate in society, the ruling said. 

The decision means that for the District Council elections scheduled for Nov. 24, only confirmed candidates are allowed to gain access to the registers.

The lower court had refused to issue an interim injunction because it believed doxxing has been going on for some time and it is hard to say the situation could get worse because of the information contained in the registers.

But according to the appeal court, there are sufficient grounds to challenge whether provisions relating to public inspection of a final register of electors in sections 20 and 21 of the Electoral Affairs Commission (Registration of Electors) (Legislative Council Geographical Constituencies) (District Council Constituencies) Regulation violate Article 14 of the Hong Kong Bill of Rights, in relation to protection of privacy.

Considering that those doxxed could be seriously affected, the Court of Appeal agreed that an interim injunction should be granted.

The ban would not have a major impact on open elections, the court said.

The validity of the injunction will last until the High Court rules on the judicial review case.

The EAC said it respects the court ruling, which it said it is studying before deciding whether to take any further action.

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