Chief Secretary Eric Chan has been appointed the chairperson of the committee that screens candidates standing for elections in Hong Kong.

Chan, the city’s number two official, will replace Financial Secretary Paul Chan as the head of the Candidate Eligibility Review Committee, the government said in a statement on Monday.

Eric Chan
Chief Secretary Eric Chan. Photo: Lea Mok/HKFP

Secretary for Home and Youth Affairs Alice Mak has also joined the committee as a member.

Mak joins Secretary for Constitutional and Mainland Affairs Erick Tsang Kwok-wai and security chief Chris Tang as an official member of the committee. Elsie Leung, Rita Fan and Lawrence Lau are non-official members.

The Candidate Eligibility Review Committee is tasked with vetting potential candidates who want to stand in the Chief Executive, Legislative Council and Election Committee elections.

Their decision is based on an evaluation made by the Committee on National Security, which assesses whether a candidate upholds the Basic Law and bears “allegiance” to the Hong Kong government, according to the Constitutional and Mainland Affairs Bureau.

The committee’s decisions are “not subject to any judicial proceedings,” meaning their verdicts are final.

legco elections publicity
A billboard with a Legislative Council election advertisement. Photo: GovHK.

The Candidate Eligibility Review Committee was set up last year as part of a major electoral overhaul that drastically reduced democratic representation among Hong Kong’s political leadership.

The overhaul was unanimously approved by China’s top legislative body last March.

‘Patriots only’

Chief Executive John Lee chaired the vetting committee when he was chief secretary of the previous administration. Lee resigned from the city’s number two position in April to run in the chief executive race, in which he was the sole candidate. In doing so, he was also removed from the committee post.

John Lee Exco Presser
Chief Executive John Lee. Photo: Lea Mok/HKFP

Under the electoral changes, the city elected political figures to the expanded 90-seat legislature last December who – barring one – were all from the pro-establishment camp.

Tik Chi-yuen was the sole lawmaker who identified as “moderate.”

Authorities have hailed the sweeping changes, which ensure that only “patriots” can participate in politics, as “improvements” to the city’s electoral system.

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Hillary Leung is a journalist at Hong Kong Free Press, where she reports on local politics and social issues, and assists with editing. Since joining in late 2021, she has covered the Covid-19 pandemic, political court cases including the 47 democrats national security trial, and challenges faced by minority communities.

Born and raised in Hong Kong, Hillary completed her undergraduate degree in journalism and sociology at the University of Hong Kong. She worked at TIME Magazine in 2019, where she wrote about Asia and overnight US news before turning her focus to the protests that began that summer. At Coconuts Hong Kong, she covered general news and wrote features, including about a Black Lives Matter march that drew controversy amid the local pro-democracy movement and two sisters who were born to a domestic worker and lived undocumented for 30 years in Hong Kong.