The commissioner of Hong Kong’s anti-corruption watchdog said on Sunday that a new task force had been set up to combat electoral fraud following Beijing’s overhaul of the city’s electoral system.
Speaking on a radio program, Simon Peh, the head of the Independent Commission Against Corruption said that the new task force plans to carry out education and publicity work between May and July for first-time election candidates and canvassing teams to help them avoid violating electoral laws.
Regarding the government’s plan to make it illegal to encourage others to cast blank or spoiled votes in elections, Peh said that this would be a new criminal offense and would be “new territory” for the ICAC, meaning the commission would first seek a greater understanding from the Department of Justice and then mobilize internally to deal with related challenges.
When asked whether the establishment of Beijing’s own national security office in Hong Kong was affecting the work of the ICAC, Peh said that the division of labor between the two entities was very clear.
“They implement the national security law; we implement the Prevention of Bribery Ordinance,” Peh said. “We will certainly keep in close contact with the police’s national security department; if we encounter some individual cases, we will discuss it with them.”
Peh added that since the work of the two entities was completely different, he “can’t see what the problem would be.”
Asked whether the work of the ICAC had been affected by politics since 2019′s social unrest or whether Beijing had directed the commission’s work, Peh said that “there is no situation like that.”
Peh added that the ICAC is only accountable to Hong Kong’s chief executive, who has not interfered with the commission’s investigative work in the past.
Peh said that the number of corruption-related complaints in Hong Kong had fallen 16% in 2020, a drop that he attributed to the decrease in social and economic activity during the COVID-19 pandemic. He added that the number of such complaints rose 11% during the first three months of this year and said he believed this was because the pandemic situation had improved.
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