Former Starry Lee assistant guilty in $100 gift pack case

Business | Wallis Wang 14 May 2021

A former assistant of lawmaker Starry Lee Wai-king and a resident group volunteer have been convicted of corruption for distributing gift packs containing products worth HK$100 to two residents to tempt them to vote for Vincent Cheng Wing-shun in a by-election three years ago.

The former assistant, Wong Wai-ha, 52, and Hoi Lai Estate resident Deng Yimei, 42, were found guilty at West Kowloon Magistrates' Courts of conspiracy to engage in corrupt conduct at an election by offering an advantage to others.

Deputy magistrate Peter Hui Shiu-keung scheduled the sentencing for May 26 and the two were remanded in jail custody.

The two who were said to have received the gift packs - housewife Chan Wai-kuen, 50, and unemployed man Li Mau, 50 - were acquitted of engaging in corrupt conduct at an election by accepting an advantage as there was insufficient proof that their voting preference was affected.

The court had heard that Wong and Deng distributed gift packs to Hoi Lai Estate residents between February 28 and March 11 in 2018, asking that they vote for Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong's candidate Cheng in a Legislative Council by-election. Cheng won the poll, but was not charged.

The gift packs contained daily necessities and food items, including cooking oil, medicated oil and a scarf.

At the hearing yesterday, Hui said Wong asked Deng to collect residents' personal information, including their names and phone numbers.

Deng also contacted Chan, Li and other residents on election day, urging them to vote for Cheng.

He added that Deng would always mention the gift when she called on residents to vote and refuted the defense's claim that she was only campaigning and collecting residents' voting intentions.

"How can it be campaigning if the defendants were using gifts to entice others to vote? Shouldn't campaigning be based on the candidates' past performance and the policies they proposed to persuade voters?" Hui asked.

In mitigation, the defense said both Wong and Deng came from the mainland and their behavior had little impact on the election.

But Hui said elections must be fair and they have committed a serious crime and ordered them to be remanded immediately.

As for Chan and Li, the magistrate said there was not enough evidence to prove that they voted for Cheng only because of the gifts.

Wong was hired by DAB chairwoman Lee's office as a part-time assistant at a salary of HK$45 per hour between March 2017 and August 2018.

But Lee said yesterday that neither she nor the office staff knew about the incident. She said they had nothing to do with election fraud and they only knew about the situation from media reports.

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