Four electors cast blank ballots in the small-circle leadership election that confirmed former chief secretary John Lee as Hong Kong’s next leader on Sunday.

CE election 2022 ballot count
Election staff count the ballots. Photo: Kyle Lam/HKFP.

A total of 1,428 elite voters from the Election Committee cast their ballots in Hong Kong’s first-ever leadership race under revamped electoral rules. Lee was the sole contender, with committee members voting either to “support” or “not support” his bid for the top role.

See also: Hong Kong’s Election Committee determines who leads the city – what is it and how does it work?

The 64-year-old secured 1,416 supporting votes, while eight “non-support” ballots were recorded. Four people did not fill out their ballot paper, Electoral Affairs Commission (EAC) Chairman Barnabas Fung told the press a few hours after Lee was officially selected.

Barnabas Fung CE election 2022
Barnabas Fung, chairman of the Electoral Affairs Commission. Photo: Almond Li/HKFP.

Asked to clarify if those four were blank votes, Fung said they were considered invalid but not “questionable” ballots. He did not use the term “blank votes” to describe the ballots in question.

“The four invalid votes were votes which had no choice appending on them. According to the law, they are invalid ballots… without any process of determining of any question, they will be declared invalid,” Fung said.

CE election 2022 John Lee
Chief Executive-elect John Lee. Photo: Kyle Lam/HKFP.

Under the electoral overhaul passed in May last year, inciting people to cast a blank or invalid ballot is now a crime under the Elections (Corrupt and Illegal Conduct) Ordinance, with the maximum penalty being three years of imprisonment. However, casting blank votes is not an offence.

CE election 2022 John Lee
Chief Executive-elect John Lee and his wife. Photo: Kyle Lam/HKFP.

Fung said six electors cast their votes from the Penny’s Bay Covid-19 isolation facility, while the others participated in the polls at the Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre in Wan Chai. The final turnout stood at 97.74 per cent. The whole ballot-counting process lasted for about 23 minutes, he added.

“The election arrangement fully manifested the principles of openness and fairness, the Electoral Affairs Commission is very pleased with the arrangement this time,” Fung said.

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Ho Long Sze Kelly is a Hong Kong-based journalist covering politics, criminal justice, human rights, social welfare and education. As a Senior Reporter at Hong Kong Free Press, she has covered the aftermath of the 2019 extradition bill protests and the Covid-19 pandemic extensively, as well as documented the transformation of her home city under the Beijing-imposed national security law.

Kelly has a bachelor's degree in Journalism from the University of Hong Kong, with a second major in Politics and Public Administration. Prior to joining HKFP in 2020, she was on the frontlines covering the 2019 citywide unrest for South China Morning Post’s Young Post. She also covered sports and youth-related issues.