The campaign team of Hong Kong’s former number two official John Lee, the sole candidate in the upcoming small-circle chief executive election, has “not thought about” how to engage with the public amid the fifth wave of Covid-19.

John Lee chief executive election campaign team
Chief executive elections candidate John Lee with members of his campaign team Tam Yiu-chung (left) and Kenneth Fok (right). Photo: John Lee 2022, via Facebook.

Tam Yiu-chung, director of Lee’s campaign office and the city’s delegate to China’s top legislative body, said on an RTHK show on Monday that the team has “not thought about how” to visit neighbourhoods and engage with the public.

“It would be very hectic,” Tam said. “From morning till night [reporters] are standing by our office door. If they hear that we have any activities, they will flood [to meet us].”

Drawing “a lot of people to gather for a common purpose,” Tam added, is a violation of social distancing restrictions.

On April 2, the government announced that chief executive candidates would be exempted from the ban on public gatherings. From April 23, those whose nominations have been validated will be allowed to conduct election-related gatherings with the public in indoor settings. The exemption does not cover outdoor group gatherings.

John Lee elections campaign meeting
Hong Kong’s ex-number 2 John Lee, who is running in the chief executive race, meets with representatives from the Hong Kong Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference (Provincial) Members Association. Photo: John Lee 2022, via Facebook.

As Tam was speaking on the radio show, Lee was meeting representatives from the Hong Kong Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference (Provincial) Members Association in Wan Chai. Addressing reporters afterwards, Lee said they generally agreed that his policy ideas fulfilled their expectations.

Lee added that he had arranged nine meetings for Monday, though it is unclear how many will be online or in person.

Visiting neighbourhoods and engaging with residents was a common feature in candidates’ election campaigns during past races, allowing Hongkongers to meet potential future leaders and raise policy suggestions.

Manifesto not due until late April

Lee, who resigned from his position as chief secretary last week, formally announced his run in next month’s small-circle chief executive race on Saturday. His opening speech did not touch on concrete policy ideas, but emphasised that he would lead with a “results-oriented approach” and aim to increase Hong Kong’s competitiveness.

Tam said earlier that the campaign team hoped to release Lee’s political manifesto in late April. The chief executive elections are scheduled for May 8.

john lee announces candidacy run election chief executive
Former chief secretary John Lee announces his run for the chief executive race. Screenshot: John Lee 2022, via Facebook.

On RTHK, Tam admitted that residents would have “less time” to understand Lee’s campaign, but said that the public could get a general idea of what Lee would offer by looking at his past work and his “direction.”

“The timing of the election this time is a bit tight,” Tam said. “The manifesto involves different aspects of policies… so we need to carefully study [them].”

Originally meant to take place in March, the chief executive race was postponed due to the Covid-19 outbreak.

To run, candidates are required to receive a minimum of 188 nominations from Election Committee members, a 1,423-strong circle made up of pro-establishment figures.

Lee has already received around 300 nominations as of Sunday.

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Hillary Leung

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.