Hong Kong’s largest pro-Beijing party is set to field 122 candidates to stand in the upcoming “patriots-only” District Council election, as the party vowed to “enrich” the community and improve district administration in the city.
More than 100 individuals will enter December’s newly-restricted District Council election for the Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong (DAB), the party announced on Monday.
Among them, 44 candidates are set to stand in the geographical constituency that will be directly elected by the public. The remaining 78 candidates will vie for seats to be returned by three government-appointed bodies, which gained new powers to nominate District Council election candidates following an electoral overhaul passed in May.
The DAB’s new chairman and lawmaker Gary Chan, who took the reins of the party from ex-chairwoman Starry Lee last month, told the press that the upcoming race will “hold significant importance.” It will serve as a crucial step in realising the revamped electoral system and enhanced district governance in the city, he said.
“The new District Council election is an integral part of this democratic system. It aims to address the loopholes in the previous system, uphold the principle of ‘patriots administering Hong Kong,’ and effectively safeguard national security and social stability,” the party leader said in Cantonese.
The election scheduled for December 10 will be the first district-level race since Hong Kong amended the composition and method of formation of the government advisory body.
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.
In 2019, the DAB sent 181 candidates to stand in the race but suffered a major defeat to its pro-democracy rivals. However, the party is expected to face little competition from pro-democracy election hopefuls in December’s election, as one of the last remaining parties from that camp announced plans to only send a handful of candidates, amid speculations that they may not pass the national security vetting.
On Sunday, the Democratic Party announced it would field only six candidates to vie for seats on district bodies, fewer than the eight initially put forward. Party chair Lo Kin-hei, who is also poised to throw his hat into the ring, did not comment on the issue of securing nominations from the contentious three government-appointed committees.
When asked how many nominations the DAB secured from the three committees, Chan said it was the responsibility of the candidates to find their own nominations, instead of gaining them via the party: “As the management of the party, we would not seek nominations on behalf of the candidates… it is the chance for candidates to show their sincerity, this kind of thing must be done by the candidates themselves,” he said.
The DAB chief added that the party would also make nominations for candidates appointed by the chief executive, but the name list was not finalised yet. They would pick people with “good virtues,” including party members and those outside of the party, he said.
The nomination period for the District Council election will begin on Tuesday and end on October 30. Some DAB candidates are set to sign up for the election on Tuesday.
Most other traditional democrats remain behind bars, have quit politics, or are in self-exile following the onset of the 2020 security law.
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