The government has received 1,553 nominations for the Chief Executive Election Committee, many of which came from pro-democracy advocates hoping to expand their influence in next year’s leadership election.

Hong Kong’s leader is elected by the committee, which consists of 1,200 members representing four sectors, under which 38 sub-sectors represent various trades, professions, social services groups and district organisations.

CE election committee
2011 Election Committee Subsector Elections. File Photo: Gov HK.

Before the 2017 chief executive election, more than 246,000 voters will be picking members of the Election Committee next month. In the lead up to the nomination period, a number of pro-democracy alliances were formed to contest the election. They mostly represent professional sectors, such as accountants, engineers, lawyers and social workers.

While all of these groups are against the re-election of incumbent Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying, the current debate relates to whether the pro-democracy camp should nominate a candidate to run in the chief executive election, or whether it should cast a protest vote in defiance.

To become a chief executive candidate, one must secure nominations from at least 150 committee members. Barrister Margaret Ng proposed a shadow election last month involving pro-democracy members to nominate popularly chosen candidates.

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Raymond Tam (left) at the 2011 CE Election Committee elections. File Photo: Gov HK.

Politics 1001, an alliance of university teaching staff, said: “Every seat we get is one less seat for the pro-establishment camp.”

The group said it opposes the “small circle election” of the chief executive, but it hopes to “encourage more friends in the higher education sector, and the general public to participate in discussion and action” by joining the race.

The Progressive Engineering group said the slogan “Anyone But CY” was meaningless; instead, it advocates equality, universal suffrage and sustainable development.

It criticised Beijing’s ruling which rejected open elections in Hong Kong two years ago, and asked the ruling to be retracted.

“Otherwise, ‘One Country, Two Systems’ are just empty words. Hongkongers have no power to defend our way of life, and our rule of law is being eroded,” the group said. “We will be demanding chief executive candidates persuade Beijing to change its mind on open elections.”

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A group of pro-democracy engineers announce their run for the Election Committee. Photo: Progressive Engineering, via Facebook.

Some campaigns are more high-profile due to the presence of public figures. For example, law professor Benny Tai and sociology professor Chan Kin-man, former leaders of the 2014 Occupy demonstrations, joined an alliance representing the higher education sub-sector.

Veteran politicians such as Alan Leong of the Civic Party and Ho Chun-yan of the Democratic Party are part of the “Pandem 9” alliance aiming for the legal sub-sector, while others such as HKU law lecturer Eric Cheung Tat-ming established the “Prodem 21” group to contest the same sub-sector.

Other candidates have little or no experience in political campaigns. Many nominees in the social welfare sub-sector, for example, are beneficiaries running together with social workers.

Practitioner Wendy Tsang is the only pro-democracy candidate seeking a seat on the 30-member Chinese medicine sub-sector, which traditionally adopts a pro-government stance.

CE election committee social welfare
A group of pro-democracy senior citizens and social workers are running for the Election Committee. Photo: O Superpower, via Facebook.

Due to a lack of opponents, nominees of 12 sub-sectors automatically became members of the Election Committee. They are mostly trade-related industries which traditionally support the government.

The agriculture and fisheries sub-sector, for example, is entitled to 60 seats – a relatively large number of seats compared to other sub-sectors with bigger memberships – and was a stronghold of Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying in 2012.

Thirty-five of the 38 sub-sectors will be holding ordinary elections to form the Election Committee on December 11. The three sub-sectors exempted are the National People’s Congress, Legislative Council, and religious sub-sectors.

The chief executive election is scheduled for March 26 next year.

2017 funding drive

Ellie Ng has written for Foreign Policy, the Daily Telegraph, Global Voices Online and others.