Candidates running for the coming district council elections in Hong Kong will no longer need to provide their residential addresses for the government’s gazette, authorities said on Saturday in a bid to protect individuals from doxxing.
Secretary for Constitutional and Mainland Affairs Patrick Nip Tak-kuen made the announcement as the city braced for its 19th straight weekend of protests, with opposing camps resorting to tactics such as leaking personal data online or cyberbullying.
Speaking on a radio programme on Saturday, Nip said the government would amend election laws so that when the list of candidates was announced on October 30, the accompanying addresses could be from their workplace or an external postbox instead of their homes.
“There is a situation in society in which people are doxxed or threatened for having different views,” he said.
While the original plan was to implement the change for the Legislative Council elections next year, Nip said it was brought forward to respond to such concerns.
He said the legislation would be first published in the gazette and then presented in Legco at its next meeting.
There is a situation in society in which people are doxxed or threatened for having different views
Patrick Nip, constitutional and mainland affairs chief
The nomination period for the district council elections began on October 4 and runs till Thursday. Nip said about 800 applications had been received so far.
Candidates who have submitted their residential address will be given the option to change that before the gazette is published.
Civic Party lawmaker Jeremy Tam Man-ho welcomed the move, saying there had already been calls to change the requirement a few years ago. But he said it would be better if the government made the announcement earlier before the nomination period began.
Nip said that as of the end of September, the Privacy Commissioner for Personal Data, the city’s privacy watchdog, said it had received or found about 1,600 cases of doxxing.
He also called for a stop to escalating violence in protests or Hong Kong would see a vacuum in the district councils with current members’ terms expiring by the end of the year.
“Elections need to be held in a peaceful environment, with order and in a fair, open and honest manner,” he says. “Candidates and voters need to feel safe.”
Several members of pro-establishment camp, including Junius Ho Kwan-yiu and Jonathan Ho Kai-ming, have had their offices vandalised.
If the November 24 polls are cancelled, the backup date is slated for December 1, but if that also fails, authorities have to go through Legco proceedings to fix another date, according to Nip, who warned that the vacuum would last for a while with matters in the legislature proceeding at a slow pace.
“District councils play a big role in pushing for district projects,” he said.
Tam pointed to laws stating that elections could be pushed back by up to 14 days, and questioned whether the government only having December 1 as a backup was an excuse to call off elections to help the embattled pro-establishment bloc under the current political climate.
Some 4.13 million Hongkongers are expected to vote for 452 district councillors on November 24.
This article Government scrambles to protect election candidates from doxxing in coming Hong Kong district council polls, with need for home address registration scrapped first appeared on South China Morning Post