Hong Kong’s upcoming “patriots only” general election will be “a competition within a very narrow spectrum,” a local political analyst has said, as 154 candidates have signed up to vie for 90 seats in the Legislative Council (LegCo).

The government announced last Friday that 35 people put their names down to run in the direct election in 10 redrawn geographical constituencies for 20 seats in the legislature. Geographical constituencies are the only seats directly elected by the public – they now make up just over a fifth of the newly revamped legislature.

Publicity materials for the 2021 Legislative Council election nomination period outside the government headquarters in Admiralty. Photo: Kelly Ho/HKFP.

In the functional constituencies, which are made up of 28 special interest groups such as accountancy and tourism, a total of 68 people submitted nominations to contest 30 legislative spots. Meanwhile, the new Election Committee constituency saw a total of 51 entries, each of whom will compete for 40 seats to be selected by the 1,500-member body.

The race, scheduled for December 19, will be the city’s first general election following a Beijing-led electoral overhaul in May, which reduced directly elected seats and imposed a candidate vetting mechanism involving national security police and the Committee for Safeguarding National Security.

Most opposition figures remain behind bars, have fled the city, have quit politics or have been barred from running.

Legislative Council. Photo: Tom Grundy/HKFP.

The government said the vetting committee will announce a list of “validly nominated” candidates within two weeks from the closure of the nomination period last Friday.

‘Limited competition’

Political scientist Ivan Choy of the Chinese University of Hong Kong told HKFP on Monday that, while some candidates identified themselves as pro-democracy or independent, they could not represent mainstream pan-democratic parties. Many are less well-known and might struggle to secure the support of non-pro-establishment voters, he said.

Choy said he believed many novice candidates, who would not have stood a chance in previous elections, entered this year’s polls to test their chances at winning under the revamped rules. The absence of traditional pro-democracy parties is also why there are many new faces in the upcoming polls.

“Who will win or lose is perhaps not very clear,” the political analyst said.

Ivan Choy. Photo: Chinese University of Hong Kong.

Asked to comment on pro-Beijing figures who hailed the polls as “having competition,” the CUHK scholar said such a competition would be “limited” because of the lack of pro-democracy parties.

“I believe it is a competition within a very narrow spectrum… whether citizens will recognise this competition will be reflected in the voter turnout rate,” Choy said. “If the turnout rate is low, then it means many people do not think they have a choice.”

The political analyst added that based on his observations, the current election atmosphere is “the worst in history,” saying the election has received very little promotion.

‘Leave Home Safe’ app

At the beginning of this month, use of the LeaveHomeSafe app was mandated at government premises in a bid to step up Covid-19 contact tracing. But voters will not be required to scan the app at polling stations on election day, the Electoral Affairs Commission announced last Friday. Nor will they need to provide personal information on a piece of paper.

A woman scans a LeaveHomeSafe QR code at the North Point Government Offices. Photo: GovHK.

Use of the government-developed app will be necessary for those entering counting stations, however, with only those aged below 12 or aged 65 or above exempted. They will need to register their names, contact number and the date of their visit on a form.

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.