Tai, two others face election raps over backfiring ThunderGo plan

Top News | 27 Jul 2021

Sophie Hui

Occupy Central movement co-founder Benny Tai Yiu-ting and two others have been charged by the Independent Commission Against Corruption with breaching election rules when placing newspaper advertisements for the so-called "ThunderGo" plan in 2016.

The plan aimed to help members of the pro-democracy camp win a majority of seats in the Legislative Council through elections held in September five years ago, the ICAC said yesterday.

Former University of Hong Kong legal scholar Tai, 57, psychologist Ip Kim-ching, 55, and Sek Sau-ching, 50, were accused of breaching the Elections (Corrupt and Illegal Conduct) Ordinance.

The three will appear in Eastern Magistrates' Courts on Friday before the case is transferred to the District Court.

They were charged jointly with four counts of illegal conduct over election expenses of more than HK$253,000 for six ads in two newspapers, Ming Pao and the now-defunct Apple Daily, through the Eggs Alliance Co in 2016.

The ads went into the newspapers on August 9 and September 2 and 4 to promote the "ThunderGo" plan.

Ip and Sek were both directors of Eggs Alliance and authorized signatories of its bank account.

The ICAC said it started an investigation after receiving complaints about breaches of the election law.

Its investigation revealed that Eggs Alliance paid HK$133,540 for the three ads placed in Ming Pao and HK$120,000 for three in Apple Daily.

According to an ICAC statement: "On various occasions before the election Tai, through a radio program, press conferences and social media, introduced to voters a voting scheme with a goal to have more than half of the elected members coming from a particular group by recruiting voters to cast their votes for particular candidates based on recommendations to be provided by the scheme."

But the three were neither candidates nor election expense agents for any candidates in the 2016 legislative election, the ICAC added.

Under the ordinance it is illegal for anyone other than a candidate or a candidate's election agent to incur expenses in connection with an election.

Any expenditure incurred for promoting or prejudicing the election of a particular candidate or particular candidates should be counted as election expenses, the ICAC said.

In June 2016, Tai said on Facebook that the "ThunderGo" plan did not constitute an election advertisement as the plan informed strategic voters by listing the popularity of all candidates like a poll.

But it "would not recommend or play down" any candidate, Tai said, so it did not "promote or prejudice the elections of any candidates."

Tai has been remanded since February as he is among 47 activists who are facing subversion charges under the national security law over their alleged involvement in the pro-democracy camp's primary election last year.

He is also serving a 16-month prison sentence for public nuisance convictions relating to his role in the Occupy movement in 2014.


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