Hong Kong’s former number two official John Lee submitted his nomination forms for his chief executive candidacy on Wednesday morning, moving him closer to standing in the small-circle election. He is widely expected to be the city’s sole contender.

Speaking to reporters outside City Gallery in Central, Lee said he had received 786 nominations from members of the Election Committee, four times more than the 188 required to run in the May 8 race.

Chief executive hopeful John Lee submits his nomination forms at City Gallery. Photo: Lea Mok/HKFP.

“I must thank the Election Committee members who nominated me. Their nominations have really encouraged me,” he said, adding that he was also grateful to his campaign office staff and to reporters for their continuous coverage.

His nomination must now be validated by the Candidate Eligibility Review Committee, which Lee used to head when he was the chief secretary. The process involves an assessment by the National Security Department of the police into whether potential candidates comply “with the legal requirements and conditions for upholding the Basic Law and bearing allegiance to the HKSAR of the People’s Republic of China.”

Among those to nominate Lee were ex-chief executive Leung Chun-ying and pro-establishment lawmaker Regina Ip.

Chief executive hopeful John Lee meets the press after submitting his nomination forms at City Gallery. Photo: Lea Mok/HKFP.

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 intended to lead with a “results-oriented approach” and aimed to increase Hong Kong’s competitiveness.

He told reporters that he met with 10 political parties and other organisations on Tuesday, and will hold more meetings on Wednesday.

‘Working very hard’

The deadline for nomination submissions is Sunday, however because of the Easter public holidays nominations must be in by Thursday. At present, Lee has no competitors – but he denied that running unchallenged in the small-circle election would be simple.

“It is not easy as I have been working very hard to explain to various members what my election platform will be like,” he said. “For example, on a single day, I went around 10 places to explain to the various members… so you saw the effort and time that my team and I have been putting into the campaign.”

Chief executive hopeful John Lee leaves after submitting his nomination forms and meeting the press at City Gallery. Photo: Lea Mok/HKFP.

Lee has not yet released his political manifesto. It is expected to be published at the end of April, leaving just one or two weeks before the day that Election Committee members vote for the next chief executive.

Putting a manifesto together “takes time,” he explained.

“I am a practical person,” Lee added. “I hope that the political ideals and measures written will really be implemented, so I very seriously consider every aspect as to how that can be done.”

This will be Hong Kong’s first chief executive race since a sweeping overhaul of the city’s electoral system last year, under which candidates have to be vetted and will be voted into office by an expanded Election Committee consisting largely of pro-establishment figures.

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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.