The rare move by Hong Kong’s public transport operators to offer free travel on election day this Sunday is a “gesture of collective responsibility” to remind the public of the importance of voting in the Legislative Council (LegCo) poll, Chief Executive Carrie Lam said.

Lam said on Tuesday that many non-government entities have been helping authorities to appeal to voters to cast their ballots, including displaying slogans in shops and on buildings.

Chief Executive Carrie Lam meets the press on December 14, 2021. Photo: Kelly Ho/HKFP.

She said the free rides to be offered on the MTR, buses and trams were a “gesture of collective responsibility” rather a practical measure to get out the vote, since most polling stations are in any case within walking distance of people’s homes.

“For the franchised transport companies… I believe they also have this corporate responsibility to do something,” Lam said. “It is not a direct or not a correlated act [that] because we want people to vote, so we provide free transport.”

A total of 90 legislators are set to be elected on Sunday as Hong Kong holds its first Legislative Council election under revamped rules decreed by Beijing to ensure only “patriots” hold power in the city.

General voters will elect 20 legislators only, while the remaining seats will be returned by special interest groups such as the accounting and legal sectors, as well as by a 1,448-member mainly pro-Beijing Election Committee.

Busses in Hong Kong. File photo: GovHK.

The changes sharply reduce the number of directly elected geographical seats compared to the previous legislature. Traditional pro-democracy parties are sitting out the election and authorities are keen to promote a strong turnout.

Lam said she would administer the oaths of office of the lawmakers, who would swear allegiance to the city when the new legislative term starts in January.

Lam told the press that the legislature would start its new term on January 1, and lawmakers would swear loyalty to the HKSAR and vow to uphold the Basic Law. The candidates who are standing in the overhauled election have already passed multiple rounds of vetting to ensure they abide by the national security law and other local laws.

The city’s leader said she would also attend the first council meeting on January 12 to deliver a speech and answer questions.

Publicity materials promoting the Legislative Council election scheduled on December 19, 2021. Photo: Kelly Ho/HKFP.

“I hope this is a new start to manifest the good relationship between the executive and the legislative branches,” Lam said.

Hong Kong disqualified six pro-democracy lawmakers over the ways they took their oaths of office in 2016. Their behaviour which included staging protests and altering the oaths, prompted Beijing to hand down an interpretation of the city’s mini-constitution to stipulate that oaths must be taken “accurately, completely and solemnly,” without any modifications to the wording. Retaking of oaths was also not allowed.

Ballot counting

The chief executive also faced questions on ballot-counting procedures, which Lam said had been reviewed by the electoral authorities after a major delay in the count at the Election Committee polls in September.

She estimated that the full results from the three constituencies would not be available until the following Monday afternoon, as the three constituencies would start counting at different times.

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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.