Hong Kong’s government has formed an election crisis management committee to decide whether to postpone the upcoming District Council election if unrest breaks out on the polling day on November 24. Protests erupted at a briefing session for candidates on Thursday evening over activist Joshua Wong’s unconfirmed candidacy.

The Constitutional and Mainland Affairs Bureau said in a paper to lawmakers the committee would recommend to the chief executive that the election is postponed if affected by a “riot, open violence or any danger to public health or safety.”

Barnabas Fung
Barnabas Fung (centre). Photo: GovHK.

The committee is led by the chair of the Electoral Affairs Commission (EAC) Barnabas Fung, and core members include members of the EAC, Secretary for Constitutional and Mainland Affairs Patrick Nip, the chief electoral officer and representatives from the Police Force, Home Affairs Bureau and the Department of Justice.

The paper said that if the election is postponed, it would be moved to the following Sunday. The election can only be postponed for 14 days, according to electoral law.

It also said if the election is postponed to a later time on the same day, the delay should at most be a maximum of 1.5 hours, so that voting could end before midnight. Otherwise, the election should be moved to another day.

Dorothy Ma Laura Liang Aron
From left: Dorothy Ma and Laura Liang Aron. File photo: GovHK.

Every person who submitted nomination forms to run has been confirmed as a candidate, except Joshua Wong – an activist and secretary-general of advocacy group Demosisto. Wong said he had submitted his application on the first day of the nomination period.

In a rare turn of events, the EAC said on Thursday that election officer Dorothy Ma, responsible for Wong’s constituency, had taken sick leave. The announcement came hours before the briefing session for confirmed candidates. Laura Liang Aron, the district officer from the Yau Tsim Mong area, has temporarily taken over Ma’s role.

"October 26" Joshua Wong Dorothy Ma briefing session
Joshua Wong. Photo: inmediahk.net.

During the briefing session at the AsiaWorld-Expo on Thursday night, Wong entered the venue as a representative of another electoral candidate, Tiffany Yuen – a former Demosisto member.

Soon after EAC Chair Barnabas Fung appeared, candidates “Long Hair” Leung Kwok-hung – a former lawmaker – and Ken Tsang stood up, chanting slogans which included, “We are all Joshua Wong.”

2019 District Council election briefing session protest
Protests at the 2019 District Council election briefing session. Photo: Citizen News.

Fung suspended the session shortly after and was escorted out by security personnel. Wong attempted to climb over a metal barrier and approach Fung, but he was stopped by security.

Fung appeared again after 20 minutes, only to encounter more protests. He announced the briefing session was cancelled soon after.

Joshua Wong
Photo: Stand News.

Wong said he wanted Fung to explain his role in the nomination process and when he found out Ma was on leave.

“Instead of asking us why we protested, it is more important to ask why, under a ‘fair election’ in Hong Kong right now, a person who has submitted nominations to run does not even know if he can run at the candidates’ briefing session,” he said.

Owan Li, a candidate running in Tai Kok Tsui North in Yau Tsim Mong district, said he had asked Aron when she will confirm the nomination of Wong, but Aron did not reply.

2019 District Council election briefing session
2019 District Council election briefing session. Photo: Citizen News.

Li said Aron’s inaction would incite more unrest and paralyse the election.

The EAC said in a statement that it respected the freedom of expression, but expressed deep regret and strongly condemned the disruptive acts.

“The District Council Ordinary Election to be held on November 24 is an important platform for over 4.13 million registered electors to exercise their right to elect their representatives. We do not accept any threats or violence in the election,” an EAC spokesperson said.

2019 District Council election briefing session protest
Protests at the 2019 District Council election briefing session. Photo: Citizen News.

“We call upon the community to make the best efforts to ensure that the election can proceed in a peaceful and safe manner, and electors can access polling stations to cast their votes in a peaceful and safe environment on the polling day. If anyone is not satisfied with the electoral arrangements, they can make complaints or make election petitions through judicial proceedings to resolve the disputes,” he added.

Judy Chan of the pro-Beijing New People’s Party and pro-democracy financier Kelvin Lam are also running in South Horizons West.

Lau Pak-kei of the pro-Beijing Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong is also running in Tai Kok Tsui North.

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Kris Cheng

Kris Cheng

Kris Cheng is a Hong Kong journalist with an interest in local politics. His work has been featured in Washington Post, Public Radio International, Hong Kong Economic Times and others. He has a BSSc in Sociology from the Chinese University of Hong Kong. Kris is HKFP's Editorial Director.