Hong Kong leadership hopeful Checkley Sin cut short a question-and-answer session during a press club talk on Monday, calling questions about the city’s Covid-19 policy and his view of the current administration too “dangerous” to answer amid legal concerns.

Speaking at a lunch event held at the Foreign Correspondents’ Club (FCC) on Monday, Sin – a movie producer and political commentator – gave a meandering speech that was notably light on policies and proposals for his potential candidacy. He prefaced the question-and-answer session by saying that his lawyer had advised him to remain tight-lipped as he should not promote or criticise candidates “under the election law.”

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When asked by the talk’s moderator how he might handle Hong Kong’s growing Covid-19 outbreak if he were chief executive, the 65-year-old said it was a “very dangerous question” as he could not criticise Chief Executive Carrie Lam should she be a potential candidate.

“I try to answer the question,” he said. “I would not say ‘if I am the chief executive.’ I would not say that. But I would say that if you adopt the practice of the mainland China, the situation will be better. I just can say that.”

checkley sin fcc
Election hopeful Checkley Sin speaks at a lunch event at the Foreign Correspondents’ Club. Photo: Hillary Leung/HKFP

Sin’s unabashed rejection of questions, and apparent unpreparedness, raised eyebrows among many in the audience.

He also declined to answer a question from a reporter about what he would tell Chinese leader Xi Jinping.

“I can say after this event if you come to my office,” Sin told the reporter before cutting short the question-and-answer session.

No blessings from Beijing

The election hopeful announced his intention to run in the upcoming chief executive race late last month, becoming the first – and as it stands, only – person to indicate his interest in the polls now less than two months away.

Sin’s candidacy remains unofficial as the nomination period – which will run from February 20 to March 5 – has not yet opened. Under Beijing’s revamp of the city’s elections, hopefuls for the small-circle leadership election must receive at least 188 nominations from the Election Committee members, and at least 15 from each of the committee’s five sectors, to run.

The Foreign Correspondents’ Club in Hong Kong. Photo: Kelly Ho/HKFP.

The former chair of a movie production company with no experience in politics or the public sector, beyond posting videos of his political commentary to YouTube, admitted during his talk that he lacked political connections and had “no way to liaise” with Beijing.

“I [do not have] any connections to get blessings,” Sin said, adding that he had not spoken to any high-level figures in the Hong Kong or central governments.

He said setbacks in his personal life over the past two years, including a severe eye injury and a separation from his wife, prompted his decision to make a change in society by joining the small-circle election.

Checkley Sin
Checkley Sin. Photo: Master Sin’s Forum, via YouTube screenshot.

But besides talking up a proposal to flatten mountains on Lamma Island to build a “mega prison” and other facilities like a water park, which he said would be “faster” than the government’s controversial Lantau Tomorrow Vision project, Sin did not touch on many practical policy points or appear to have much of a manifesto.

During the question-and-answer session, Sin seemed to be caught off guard by a question from HKFP. Asked about a post on his website last August, which alleged that foreign journalists did not have work visas while reporting on the 2019 protests, the leadership hopeful seemed lost and suggested that HKFP speak to his assistant.

Press freedom journalist police
File Photo: Studio Incendo.

When showed the blog post on a phone, he invited HKFP to visit his office for a chat. “I’m willing to answer you under a special arrangement. This is not the way to talk [about] this issue at this moment,” he said.

When pressed on the question, Sin added: “Anyone who work[s] in Hong Kong must [have] a working permit. Those journalists without working permit[s]. You don’t understand the immigration law? The immigration law that [anyone who wants] to work in Hong Kong need to get a working permit… I suggest you study the immigration law before asking this question.”

Checkley Sin
Election hopeful Checkley Sin speaks at a lunch event at the Foreign Correspondents’ Club. Photo: Tom Grundy/HKFP

There have not been any recent reports about journalists working in Hong Kong without a visa.

‘Farcical comments’

Sin’s first major public appearance since announcing his intention to run struck many as bizarre.

“This is so far the weirdest #Hongkong#CEelection2022 “candidate” one could think of. Well done [Austin Ramzy] for keeping your composure at some farcical comments. Sorry [Tom Grundy] didn’t exactly got his answers. I think I’ll have to watch again,” Florence de Changy, former president of the FCC said.

Another tweet read: “Very professional moderating of an absolute car crash.”

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Hillary has an interest in social issues and politics. Previously, she reported on Asia broadly - including on Hong Kong's 2019 protests - for TIME Magazine and covered local news at Coconuts Hong Kong.