Secretary for Constitutional and Mainland Affairs Erick Tsang said on Tuesday that district councillors should be considered public officers, and hence should swear allegiance to the city.

“Personally I think district councillors are public officers, but as for the arrangement of the swearing in, and the mechanism for when the oath is violated, they have to be further studied,” said Tsang at an unofficial meeting of the Panel on Constitutional Affairs.

district council election 2019 november 24 (9) (Copy)
File photo: May James/HKFP.

Lee said that the government was studying the possibility of amending article 104 of the Basic Law. The current legislation does not include district councillors or civil servants in the list of people required to swear to uphold the Basic Law and swear allegiance to Hong Kong.

Following an announcement in Chief Executive Carrie Lam’s policy address in November last year, Secretary for Civil Service Patrick Nip said civil servants had to take an oath in order to continue their role. He hinted that those who refuse may be fired.

Later in December, top-ranking officials took oaths in two ceremonies, while over 2,900 civil servants who joined the government on – or after – July 1 last year signed a declaration confirming their loyalty to the government.

Lee also said that the government was looking into holding the Legislative Council election in September this year. The government postponed the race last year, citing coronavirus pandemic concerns.

Erick Tsang
Secretary for Constitutional and Mainland Affairs Erick Tsang at an unofficial meeting of the Panel on Constitutional Affairs. Photo: Legislative Council, via video screenshot.

The secretary said that the government was looking into the technical aspects of allowing overseas voting to ensure that the election could be held under the pandemic.

The government announced a plan to allow Hong Kong citizens living in the mainland to vote in elections in October last year, but critics feared that the plan would make the election more prone to vote-rigging.

Lee added that he believed that distributing ballot papers electronically would be made possible in the upcoming election, but the arrangement had yet to be confirmed.

When asked if national security officers would be present at polling stations, Lee said that the government had planned for a “similar arrangement” with police officers and the Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC).

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Candice is a reporter at Hong Kong Free Press. She previously worked as a researcher at a local think tank. She has a BSocSc in Politics and International Relations from the University of Manchester and a MSc in International Political Economy from London School of Economics.