Reporters and Hong Kong’s Democratic Party have again hit snags trying to access contact details of committee members responsible for nominating candidates in the upcoming “patriots-only” District Council race, after the government released a register including only members’ surnames and addresses.

district council election 2019 november 24 (9) (Copy)
Lek Yuen Estate, Shatin. Photo: May James/HKFP.

The District Committees constituencies register was released on Monday, with entries for 2,533 electors – members of the Area Committees, the District Fight Crime Committees, and the District Fire Safety Committees.

Those hoping to run in December’s overhauled District Council race must receive at least three nominations from each of the three committees to be eligible to run for one of 88 directly-elected seats on the local-level advisory bodies – down from 452 in the 2019 election.

Thus far, the government has refused to disclose contact details of the District Committee members, citing data privacy laws, sparking criticism from members of pro-democracy parties hoping to front candidates in the race.

‘Specified persons’

According to the Registration and Electoral Office’s (REO) website, only “validly nominated candidates … meeting the specified requirements” and members of the press were allowed to inspect the electors’ registers at the REO’s offices in Cheung Sha Wan and Kowloon Bay.

Only the first Chinese character or the first word of the elector’s name and their registered residential address are shown on the registers, with no phone numbers or email addresses.

election voting voters ballot box polls election committee 2021 sept 19
File Photo: Kyle Lam/HKFP.

Local media reported on Tuesday that the registers included several electors with the same surname. According to Ming Pao, eight of the 72 electors in Central and Western District had the surname Chan.

According to an earlier statement issued by the Electoral Affairs Commission, authorities may provide “extracts” from registers to “specified persons” – validly nominated candidates or people from eligible bodies or organisations.

In a reply to local media outlet HK01, the EAC said members of the pro-democracy Democratic Party were among those specified persons. HKFP has reached out to the commission for clarification.

Data privacy

Democratic Party chair Lo Kin-hei, who in September revealed that eight party members had been endorsed to run in the polls, said that he had reached out to the Home Affairs Department (HAD) for the committee members’ contact details to begin seeking nominations. But according to Ming Pao, the department said it could only forward the request to the committees.

John Lee Erick Tsang Eric Chan Paul Lam Alice Mak
Hong Kong government officials attend a press conference on May 2, 2023 about the proposed amendments to the District Councils. Photo: Kyle Lam/HKFP.

Another pro-democracy party, the Hong Kong Association for Democracy and People’s Livelihood (ADPL), has also raised concerns over difficulties surrounding seeking nominations.

Plans to overhaul the District Council elections were unveiled in May 2023 to ensure only “patriots” are elected, following a pro-democracy landslide at the last polls in 2019. The number of seats chosen democratically by the public will be slashed to around 20 per cent, with the rest chosen by the city’s leader, government-appointed committees and officials.

Constituency boundaries will be redrawn and each local council will be chaired by a government official, similar to colonial-era arrangements. All candidates will undergo national security vetting to ensure patriotism.

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James Lee is a reporter at Hong Kong Free Press with an interest in culture and social issues. He graduated with a bachelor’s degree in English and a minor in Journalism from the Chinese University of Hong Kong, where he witnessed the institution’s transformation over the course of the 2019 extradition bill protests and after the passing of the Beijing-imposed security law.

Since joining HKFP in 2023, he has covered local politics, the city’s housing crisis, as well as landmark court cases including the 47 democrats national security trial. He was previously a reporter at The Standard where he interviewed pro-establishment heavyweights and extensively covered the Covid-19 pandemic and Hong Kong’s political overhauls under the national security law.