Hong Kong police have searched the office of an independent political pollster days after Beijing imposed sweeping national security legislation on the former British colony.
The raid came ahead of weekend primary elections for Hong Kong’s pro-democracy opposition, for which pollster Robert Chung’s Hong Kong Public Opinion Research Institute is a co-organiser.
Chung said authorities arrived at his office and he “negotiated” with police to try to understand the basis for their search warrant. He said police copied some information from computers.
Police confirmed they had searched his office.
“The police received a report from the public that the computer system of a polling organisation was suspected of being hacked and some personal information of the public was leaked,” police said in a statement.
“The investigation is still ongoing and no one has been arrested.”
Chung told a news conference early on Saturday he was worried the information police obtained could be used in other investigations but would do his best to protect his sources. He did not describe the nature of the data taken.
“We obtained an oral promise that they wouldn’t use it for other investigations,” Chung said.
Former Hong Kong democracy lawmaker Au Nok-hin said he believed the raid was related to the primary elections and was aimed at stoking fear in the community.
Chung’s organisation conducted three public opinion polls for Reuters on how residents of the city saw the sometimes violent pro-democracy protest movement that began in 2019. The surveys were conducted in December, March and June.
In the most recent poll, almost half of Hong Kong residents polled said they were “very much opposed” to Beijing’s move to implement national security legislation in the city.
Beijing imposed the national security legislation just before midnight on 30 June, making crimes of secession, subversion, terrorism and collusion with foreign forces punishable with up to life in prison.
The primary elections come ahead of Legislative Council polls on 6 September, when the pro-democracy camp hopes to secure a 35-plus majority in the legislature, giving it power to block government proposals and potentially paralyse the administration.