Only about 3,000 individual voters will be involved in selecting Hong Kong’s revamped and much more powerful election committee compared to 239,000 previously, after a political overhaul ordered by Beijing goes into force.

Police officers outside a polling station. File Photo: HKFP/Catherine Lai.

In 2020, 239,193 individual voters were registered to select the 1,200-member election committee. Under the new system, only about 3,200 individuals remain eligible to help pick an expanded 1,500-member body, according to HKFP‘s analysis.

The Improving Election System Bill 2021, which was presented to the city’s Legislative Council (LegCo) on Wednesday, gave details about the make-up of the revamped election committee and the people or organisations eligible to elect its members.

The committee’s sole function in the past was to elect the chief executive every five years. In future, it will also nominate all LegCo candidates and directly select 40 of them, to serve in an expanded 90-member LegCo.

The make-up of the new committee has been heavily weighted in favour of pro-Beijing groups. For example, representatives of district councils – who are overwhelmingly pan-democrats – will no longer hold membership.

Beijing in March handed down a new version of the Basic Law’s Annexes I and II, paving the way for the changes. Overall, the revisions will sharply reduce democratic representation in LegCo and add several layers of vetting for potential candidates, including by the police. The plan has been deemed an “improvement” by the authorities but slammed by critics as it would make it near-impossible for democrats to run for office.

Apart from the hurdles presented by the vetting and nomination process, only 20 LegCo seats out of 90 will in future be directly elected compared to 35 out of 70 at present.

Chief Executive Carrie Lam (centre) and other government officials meet the press on April 13, 2021. File Photo: GovHK.

Under the new system, the election committee will become the city’s de facto dominant political institution, according to analysts. Its 1,500 members will come from 40 subsectors.

Members who were previously elected by individual voters will now, in all but four subsectors, be picked by institutional voters, will be nominated or will be ex-officio members. As a result, only 293 of the 1,500 seats will be elected by individuals in these four subsectors, all of which are broadly pro-establishment:

  • The Heung Yee Kuk.
  • Members of Area District Fight Crime Committees, and District Fire Safety Committees of Hong Kong Island and Kowloon.
  • Members of Area District Fight Crime Committees, and District Fire Safety Committees of the New Territories.
  • Representatives of Hong Kong members of five Chinese national organisations.

From 239,193 to around 3,200

The previous election committee had 239,193 individual voters across the board, according to figures from its 2020 electoral roll.

Under the election overhaul, about 3,200 Hongkongers from these four subsectors may register as individual voters to help select the election committee, according to data compiled from official websites and the pro-China press by HKFP.

Election Committee subsectorsNumber of people Eligible to voteNumber of seats
Heung Yee Kuk (Total)16427
Representatives on Area Committees, District Fight Crime Committees, and District Fire Safety Committees of Hong Kong Island, Kowloon, and New Territories (Total):2,466156
Area Committees members1,475
District Fight Crime Committee members520
District Fire Safety Committees members471
Representatives of Hong Kong members of relevant national organisations (Total) :595110
Hong Kong delegates of the All-China Women’s Federation52*
Hong Kong members of the All-China Federation of Industry and Commerce18
Hong Kong committee members of the All-China Federation of Returned Overseas Chinese107
Hong Kong committee members of the All-China Youth Federation101
Hong Kong directors of the China Overseas Friendship Association317
Total number of eligible individual voters3,225293
* The number is based on a photo of the group taken in 2017 as the delegates attended a government event in Beijing, published by the China Liaison Office.

The number of eligible voters has been calculated using lists of members of the organisations and committees named in the subsectors. The lists were either taken from official websites or from other published material.

Hong Kong delegates of the All China Women’s Federation in 2013. Photo: China Liaison Office website.

One membership list was recently published in the form of a newspaper advertisement, placed in the pro-Beijing press to announce the delegates’ support for the city’s National Security Law imposed by Beijing in June 2020.

There is also no recent information available on the All-China Women’s Federation Hong Kong delegates, as the latest figure was counted based on a photo of the group in 2017. It was published on the China Liaison Office’s website when they visited Beijing on an official tour.

The body did not respond to an enquiry from HKFP about the current membership figure.

Ex-officio members to triple

Of the 1,500 committee members, the number of ex-officio members will more than triple: while it used to have 106 ex-officio members, now 362 of them will have a seat by virtue of their positions – such as heads of statutory bodies or universities or membership of LegCo.

Of the remainder, 156 members will be nominated by designated organisations and 982 will be chosen through some form of election.

Individual voters will elect 293 of the 982 and the remaining 689 will be picked by institutional voters – representatives voting on behalf of a list of organisations specified in the new bill.

Selina Cheng

Selina Cheng is a Hong Kong journalist who previously worked with HK01, Quartz and AFP Beijing. She also covered the Umbrella Movement for AP and reported for a newspaper in France. Selina has studied investigative reporting at the Columbia Journalism School.