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‘Civic referendum’ activist says he doesn’t fear jail

High-profile political activist Jason Chao Teng Hei, one of the key organisers of the controversial “civic referendum”, said Monday he was “not afraid of being jailed” and insisted that he would continue to help locals exercise their right to express their views on the city’s political development by taking part in the online version of […]

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UPDATED: 22 Dec 2023, 5:48 am

High-profile political activist Jason Chao Teng Hei, one of the key organisers of the controversial “civic referendum”, said Monday he was “not afraid of being jailed” and insisted that he would continue to help locals exercise their right to express their views on the city’s political development by taking part in the online version of the “referendum” – labelled illegal and invalid by the government.

Chao made the remarks to the media in an outdoor interview next to Government Headquarters after being questioned by the Public Prosecution (MP) Office for about eight hours.

At about 9 a.m. the Judiciary Police (PJ) said in a statement that Chao was taken to the Public Prosecution Office for questioning on suspected “serious disobedience” for continuing to collect personal data illegally by setting up a website although the Office for Personal Data Protection (GPDP) had advised him to refrain from doing so.

Chao, a computer programmer who is a key member of the grassroots Open Macau Society, one of the three co-organisers of the “civic referendum” along with Macau Conscience and Macau Youth Dynamics, was questioned by PJ officers at the PJ headquarters in Zape for about six hours on Sunday.

Chao had been taken in for questioning on Sunday afternoon. He left the PJ headquarters on Sunday night.

Apart from Chao, four “civic referendum” activists were taken in for questioning by Public Security Police (PSP) officers on Sunday and spent several hours at the No. 1 PSP Station in the city centre. They left the station on Sunday night.

The “civic referendum” originally included e-voting at five street locations but the three groups decided to scrap it after the police told the activists to stop the “illegal” activity. However, the groups have said their online “referendum” will continue until August 31.

“The Public Prosecution has started an investigation into my alleged case of serious disobedience…they also told me that I need to report to the Public Prosecution if I change my address or leave Macau for five days or more,” Chao said, adding that his case had been returned to the Judiciary Police for further investigation.

He slammed the government and the police for doing “whatever they can” to stop the “civic referendum”.

“We will continue with it…even if I am found guilty [of serious disobedience] I will be okay as long as residents are given the opportunity to express their views [on political reform],” Chao said.

He also slammed the Office for Personal Data Protection (GPDP) for not giving him time to appeal against its decision to stop him from collecting personal data from “civic referendum” voters.

According to the website of the “civic referendum,” anyone who wants to cast his or her vote must declare that they submitted their ID card number of their own volition.

Chao also said that PJ officers had asked him hand over all the personal data he had collected but he refused, insisting that the data is protected.
If found guilty of serious disobedience, Chao faces up to two years behind bars, according to Article 312 of the Macau Penal Code.

According to a ruling of the Court of Final Appeal (TUI), the “civic referendum” has no legal basis, but neither is it formally illegal.

Until midnight 6,212 locals had voted in the online survey.(macaunews/macaupost)

UPDATED: 22 Dec 2023, 5:48 am

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