The vice-president of Hong Kong’s Olympic Committee Kenneth Fok has announced he will run in the upcoming “patriots only” legislative polls, as he hailed Beijing’s electoral overhaul as “elevating” Hong Kong’s elections beyond a “battle of political stances.”

The grandson of late billionaire Henry Fok signed up on Tuesday to enter the newly-restrictive Legislative Council (LegCo) race in December, when he will seek to become a representative of the sports, performing arts, culture and publication sector.

Kenneth Fok. Photo: Kelly Ho/HKFP.

He was accompanied by Hong Kong table tennis head coach Li Ching who led the women’s team to win a bronze medal at the Tokyo Olympics in August, and celebrity Eric Tsang who is now a senior executive at Television Broadcasting Limited.

In his election manifesto, the vice-chief Sports Federation and Olympic Committee of Hong Kong, China pledged to industrialise the sports and cultural sector and enhance the protection of intellectual property rights. He also said he would urge the government to host more international events and execute Beijing’s plan for the development of tourism, sports and culture in the Greater Bay Area, among other initiatives.

Hong Kong table tennis team coach Li Ching (second from left), Eric Tsang (third left), and senior executives of Television Broadcasts Limited are among the people who accompanied Kenneth Fok (centre) to the Central Government Offices on November 2, 2021 to submit his nominations for the 2021 Legislative Council election. Photo: Kelly Ho/HKFP.

Fok cited Xia Baolong, saying he agreed with the top official of Beijing’s Hong Kong and Macao Affairs Office that being patriotic was a “basic requirement” for lawmakers in Hong Kong. He said that, after fulfilling such a prerequisite, it would be important for a legislator representing the sports and cultural sector to listen and understand the hardship of the industries.

“Elections in the past were more of a battle of political stance. But after improving the electoral system, I think the election has elevated to become a face-off among candidates based on their ability,” he told reporters outside the Central Government Offices.

In March, 2021, Beijing passed legislation to ensure “patriots” govern Hong Kong. The move reduced democratic representation in the legislature, tightened control of elections and introduced a pro-Beijing vetting panel to select candidates. The Hong Kong government said the overhaul would ensure the city’s stability and prosperity. But the changes also prompted international condemnation, as it makes it near-impossible for pro-democracy candidates to stand.

Photo: Kelly Ho/HKFP.

When asked about the government’s plan to criminalise “fake news” in the upcoming LegCo term, Fok vowed to conduct “adequate consultation” with relevant sectors, including the media, if he was elected, to reflect the industries’ concerns to the authorities.

“We need to carefully consider and study the impact of fake news on society, especially young people,” he said.

Fok had indicated his intention to run in the legislative polls last year, before Chief Executive Carrie Lam invoked her emergency powers in an unprecedented move to delay the election citing Covid-19 fears.

A banner in Hong Kong promoting the electoral overhaul. Photo: GovHK.

The sports and cultural sector is among 28 functional constituencies which will return a total of 30 seats in the legislature by a small group of industry representatives. Fok is expected to stand against William So, the vice-president of the Hong Kong Publishing Federation. But he may face more competitors pending the final number of candidates who sign up before the nomination period ends next Friday.

Other candidates

Tuesday marked the fourth day of the LegCo election nomination period since it opened last Saturday. The Liberal Party’s Frankie Yik announced that he will seek re-election in the transport sector, while his fellow party member Michael Lee, who was defeated in the 2019 District Council election, will attempt to win one of the 40 spots selected by the 1,500-member Election Committee.

Michael Lee. Photo: Kelly Ho/HKFP.

The largest pro-Beijing party, the DAB, also sent a new election hopeful on top of the 18 candidates announced last week. Accountant Edmund Wong, who said he was too young for candidateship back in 2016 when he was in his early 30s, obtained the party’s approval on Monday to enter the race in the accounting sector.

“I hope to bring young and different voices into the legislature… and help accountants have better development,” said the DAB member who joined the party in late 2014.

As of Monday, election authorities have received nominations from 26 candidates, with 12 coming from the functional constituencies. Of the 10 newly redrawn geographical constituencies, half saw no sign-ups as of Monday.

DAB 2021 LegCo election candidate Chan Hok-fung (second right), alongside veterans Ip kwok-him (second left) and Horace Cheung (right). Photo: DAB.

So far, only Islands District Councillor Fong Lung-fei has identified himself as a pro-democracy election hopeful as he applied to stand in the Hong Kong Island West constituency. Most of Hong Kong’s opposition figures have been jailed, are in custody, have quit politics or have fled abroad.

Another non-pro-establishment candidate is Mandy Tam who will compete in Kowloon Central. The Wong Tai Sin district councillor did not state her political affiliation on her nomination form.

The December election has been shunned by members of the city’s biggest opposition party, the Democratic Party, amid a wider crackdown on pro-democracy forces in the city with dozens of civil society groups dissolving under pressure from the authorities.

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Kelly Ho

Kelly Ho has an interest in local politics, education and sports. She formerly worked at South China Morning Post Young Post, where she specialised in reporting on issues related to Hong Kong youth. She has a bachelor's degree in Journalism from the University of Hong Kong, with a second major in Politics and Public Administration.