Candidates from Hong Kong’s biggest pro-Beijing party running in the upcoming legislative race have said appealing for votes from the city’s 1,448 election committee members is akin to soliciting ballots from hundreds of thousands of ordinary voters. They said the powerful group is a “microcosm of society.”

DAB election committee members and constituency candidates, from let to right: Lillian Wong, Elizabeth Quat, Horace Cheung, Rock Chen, Nixie Lam and Joseph Chan.
DAB election committee members and constituency candidates, from let to right: Lillian Wong, Elizabeth Quat, Horace Cheung, Rock Chen, Nixie Lam and Joseph Chan. Photo: Selina Cheng/HKFP.

Six candidates from the Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong (DAB) running for the election committee constituency in the legislature met the press on Wednesday to share progress on their campaign amongst some 1,400 fellow committee members.

The six DAB hopefuls are among 51 hoping to nab 40 seats dedicated to election committee members – none of the seats are elected by the general public under the newly-restrictive election rules. The six include former lawmakers Horace Cheung and Elisabeth Quat, Hong Kong Youth Association chair Joseph Chan, former district councillor Nixie Lam and teacher Lillian Kwok.

Over the past few weeks they met with different groups of committee members at about 20 closed-door meetings to solicit votes and collect opinions from them, DAB vice chair and candidate Horace Cheung said. The candidates’ schedule has been packed, with some meetings lasting up to three hours where they discussed their election platforms in depth, said Cheung.

“The more meetings we had, the more excited we’ve become,” he said.

However, he did not divulge which election committee members they met.

DAB Elizabeth Quat, Horace Cheung, Rock Chen
From left to right: Elizabeth Quat, Horace Cheung, Rock Chen Photo: Selina Cheng/HKFP.

Under the “patriots only” election overhaul led by Beijing in May, the number of seats in the Legislative Council (LegCo) have expanded from 70 to 90, but the number of seats directly elected by the public have shrunk from 35 to 20.

The city’s pre-vetted 1,448 election committee members — who are empowered to nominate and elect both LegCo and chief executive candidates — will themselves be given 40 seats on the city’s legislature through a restricted election. They will also vote to select these 40 individuals.

Elizabeth Quat. Photo: Selina Cheng/HKFP.

Only individuals or representatives from a list of bodies from various sectors recognised by the government are eligible to become an election committee member, and to vote for one. Originally designed to have 1,500 seats, the committee now consists of 1,448 individuals who are largely pro-establishment.

‘All elites’

Campaigning among election committee members does not mean overlooking issues ordinary Hongkongers are concerned about, Cheung said, but – instead – will ensure that candidates “feel the pulse” on a broader spectrum of issues from sectors that otherwise would not be heard during street-side campaigns as in the past.

While candidates running in this constituency are “all elites,” Cheung said, “the 1,400 or so election committee members represent a microcosm of the entirety of Hong Kong.”

“[Election committee members] are actually all Hongkongers. They are all Hong Kong voters.”

DAB Rock Chen, Nixie Lam, Joseph Chan.
From left to right: Rock Chen, Nixie Lam, Joseph Chan. Photo: Selina Cheng/HKFP.

Nixie Lam, formerly a district councillor in Tsuen Wan, addressed United Nations delegates back in March 2020 to defend the enactment of a national security law in the city and to condemn violence during the anti-China extradition bill protests. She said that interests among committee members may be “contradictory” but it is up to those vying for a seat to figure out how they can balance out policy platforms “in a balanced way.”

The DAB hopefuls also invited other candidates to tag along during these meetings, Cheung said, admitting that the party enjoys more advantage in gaining access to such powerful voters than other, individual candidates. The party welcomes those “whose platform aligns with the DAB” to join these closed-door meetings, but Cheung declined to indicate who the tagalongs – and potential allies – were.

“The election is no longer a zero-sum game,” he said, as 51 candidates are now vying for 40 seats and not just one.

Most Hong Kong opposition figures remain behind bars, have fled overseas, are barred from running the election or have quit politics.

Other election committee constituency candidates can be found here.

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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.