One of Hong Kong’s last remaining opposition parties will field six candidates in the upcoming “patriots-only” district council election, fewer than the eight initially put forward.

It comes as its pro-Beijing rival is set to announce a list of more than 100 hopefuls on Monday evening for the newly-restricted December race.

The Democratic Party. Photo: Peter Lee/HKFP.
The Democratic Party. File Photo: Peter Lee/HKFP.

The Democratic Party said on Sunday that the six will run for the directly-elected seats, including chairperson Lo Kin-hei, vice-chair Bonnie Ng, incumbent Yau Tsim Mong District Council member Leo Chu, and former district council members Li Shee-lin, Nelson Ip, and Ben Poon.

They will run for one of 88 democratically-elected seats on the local-level advisory bodies – down from 452 in the 2019 election. Democrats swept the last election, before a major electoral overhaul this year ensured only “patriots” could take part in the future.

The pro-democracy party had nominated eight members to join the overhauled race last month. Chairperson Lo Kin-hei said that party members were able to opt out from the race, despite the nomination, and that the party respected their decisions, local media reported.

Lo Kin-hei
Lo Kin-hei. File Photo: Ocean Tham/HKFP.

Aside from Chu, the other candidates were all former district council members who resigned in 2021, after an oath-taking requirement had district councillors swear allegiance to the city and vow to uphold the Basic Law. It prompted a mass exodus of district councillors.

According to Yahoo News, when asked about his resignation following the oath-taking requirement, Lo said: “During every election, the declaration has certain clauses pertaining to uphold the Basic Law and plead allegiance to the HKSAR, I don’t think this has changed.”

Among the hopefuls, Lo and Ng will run in the Southern district and the Central and Western district, respectively, where both of them were elected in 2019.

democratic party hong kong hopefuls for district council election

Li Shee-linn and Ben Poon will eye seats in the Southern district and the Eastern district respectively.

Chu will seek re-election in Kowloon’s Yau Tsim Mong district, while Ip will return to the Kwun Tong district to run for his former seat.

Lo also said that he had obtained the full names and addresses of members of the three district-level committees from the Electoral Affairs Commission. The six hopefuls will seek nominations from them via post.

Bonnie Ng
Bonnie Ng. Photo: Bonnie Ng, via Facebook.

Under the new system, the “three committees” – the District Fight Crime Committees, District Fire Safety Committees and Area Committees – are responsible for gatekeeping the upcoming race. Candidates must bag nine nominations from the three committees in order to run.

Speaking to HKFP on Monday, Ng said they will try to reach committee members previously unknown to them.

Environmental activist and ADPL hopefuls

Also seeking to enter the race is environmental activist and local media outlet Transit Jam journalist, James Ockenden. In a Monday press release, the Kowloon Tong resident said he would stand in the Kowloon City North district to win “safe streets, safe jobs, clean air and a fair deal for residents.”

“In the poorer districts, developers plot to give residents a poor deal and wreck heritage while developers in the rich districts pay little concern to the environmental health and safety of residents,” he said.

He also said that he hopes to improve the walkability and transport connections of the Kai Tak site.

James Ockenden
James Ockenden. Photo: James Ockenden.

Ockenden added that he has “found possible contact details for just 40 of the 155 nominators” in the Kowloon City committees: “While I respect government concerns over candidate abilities, we also need to allow flexibility for newcomers and those who have worked outside of the established systems.”

Another remaining pro-democracy party, the Hong Kong Association for Democracy and People’s Livelihood, also said two party members – Chow Kai-lim and Kwok Wai-shing – will join the race, Ming Pao reported.

Meanwhile, the Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong, the largest pro-Beijing political party in the city, is set to announce a list of more than 100 hopefuls for the upcoming race on Monday afternoon.

Electoral overhaul

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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Hans Tse is a reporter at Hong Kong Free Press. He was previously a researcher at several universities and wrote about local politics and media transformations. He holds an M.Phil in communication from the Chinese University of Hong Kong.