Those interested to run in the “patriots-only” District Council elections and who are struggling to get nominations should “look into why they have problems,” Chief Executive John Lee has said.

John Lee speaks to reporters on September 5, 2023. Photo: Kyle Lam/HKFP.
John Lee speaks to reporters on September 5, 2023. File photo: Kyle Lam/HKFP.

Under the recently overhauled electoral system, a candidate must receive at least three nominations from government-appointed committees to compete. But pro-democracy activists, and some pro-establishment figures who do not belong to traditional parties, have said they have been unsuccessful in obtaining nominations.

Lee said on Tuesday during his regular press conference that some might be failing to get nominations because they had not gained trust from the nominators.

“It might involve various reasons. Nominators might think the candidates cannot fulfil their responsibility as district councillors, have concerns over their performance, not believe they love the country and Hong Kong, or that they are not sincere in upholding the Basic Law and bearing allegiance to the Hong Kong SAR, ” Lee said in Cantonese.

Tik Chi-yuen
Lawmaker Tik Chi-yuen holds a sign reading “Happy Hong Kong, hopeless for the poor” when he meets the press on February 22, 2023 after the 2023 Budget address. Photo: Kelly Ho/HKFP.

He added: “If [candidates] aren’t able to meet those basic requirements, they should look into why they have problems.”

In response to Lee’s remarks, self-proclaimed non-establishment lawmaker and chair of moderate party Third Side Tik Chi Yuen told HK01 on Tuesday that committee members should only consider whether candidates “love the country and Hong Kong” in giving nominations.

Tik said evaluating candidates’ performance and working style is the duty of voters, not of nominators. Third Side has announced that they would send two candidates to run in the race.

Roundtable, a pro-establishment group founded by entrepreneur and pro-establishment lawmaker Michael Tien, has announced that it would send five candidates – but only one had secured enough nominations.

Michael Tien
Michael Tien. Photo: Holmes Chan/HKFP.

Tien said on Now TV on Tuesday that he is an “enlightened” pro-establishment lawmaker and that it is undoubtable that he loves the country and Hong Kong. He said authorities should review the composition of the committees.

The “patriots-only” District Council election will take place on December 10. The nomination period began last Tuesday and runs until next Monday.

Hong Kong lawmakers and interested parties have also criticised authorities’ refusal to disclose the contact details of committee members responsible for nominating candidates.

Citing privacy concerns, the Electoral Affairs Commission (EAC) said in a statement earlier this month that it was not authorised to make such information available to the general public.

As of last Saturday, the government has received 322 nominations from would-be candidates for the patriots-only District Council election. None of them are from pro-democracy parties.

democratic party
The Democratic Party meets the press on October 19 to talk about their reactions to Chief Executive John Lee’s first Policy Address. Photo: Peter Lee/HKFP.

Democratic Party chair Lo Kin-hei said in September that eight party members had been endorsed to run in the newly restricted elections, while another pro-democracy party, the Hong Kong Association for Democracy and People’s Livelihood (ADPL), will have two people run.

Both parties have raised difficulties in securing nominations.

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Irene Chan is a reporter at Hong Kong Free Press and has an interest in covering political and social change. She previously worked at Initium Media as chief editor for Hong Kong news and was a community organiser at the Society for Community Organisation serving the underprivileged. She has a bachelor’s degree in Journalism from Fudan University and a master’s degree in social work from the Chinese University of Hong Kong.

Irene is the recipient of two Society of Publishers in Asia (SOPA) awards and three honourable mentions for her investigative, feature and video reporting. She also received a Human Rights Press Award for multimedia reporting and an honourable mention for feature writing.