EXCLUSIVE: SECRETIVE ELECTION NOMINATORS TO REMAIN HIDDEN, GOVT CONFIRMS
Home Affairs will not provide nominators' details or help candidates send messages to election gatekeepers. PLUS electoral maths means just a quarter of seats will be contested in bigger districts
The government will keep secret the identities of hundreds of appointed district electors who hold the nomination keys for prospective district council candidates, an official confirmed today.
Under new election rules, candidates for the 88 publicly-voted District Council seats (less than a fifth of the total seats to be awarded) must earn nominations from at least three members of each of the "Three Committees" in their districts1. But, three weeks ahead of the nomination period opening, the scant public details of those committees offer no clues as to many of the nominators' identities.
In a response to my complaint and request last month for full names and contact details of Kowloon City's "Three Committees", Home Affairs Department (HAD) today said "privacy concerns" meant it could not share further details of the committee members, and that it "will not help forward [...] requests for nomination in the District Council Ordinary Election", while it had also banned the forwarding of any additional information or attachments (such as campaign platform slides) to committee members on other matters, effectively firewalling nominators from the general public.
Whether government committee members were obliged to follow up any requests or questions from the general public, should they be able to contact them, HAD said "we will not require him or her to give a reply, nor will we follow up the matter."
Chu, Toby Chu?
The secret committee lists will likely hamper many of those who wish to run in the election.
Searching for the nominators, even with a name, ranges from time consuming to impossible.
While a few names on the Three Committees stand out as known entities or are fairly easily searched (the first I tried was Lee Chiu-yu, who I pretty quickly figured wasn't an Angelababy wannabe on Instagram or a recently-deceased 90-year-old Chinese-American lady in California but a member of political party Business Professionals Alliance), many are simply impossible to track down unless you actually know them or know someone in the know. David Ho? David Chan? Luo Jinwen?
To anyone who says the list is actually "public" (as the government tried to claim to my first complaint), I say, OK, sure. Let's play a game. Go find David Smith in the UK, give him the password "patriot" and I will give you ten million dollars3. Not just any David Smith, of course, it has to be the right one. No more clues, sorry, off you jog.
Essentially, most of the nominators are secret in the same way. All we know about this shadowy group is that it is two-thirds men (in Kowloon City at least, where ~100 out of the ~150 electors are male). They're hard to find. And, although they hold the future of the District Councils in their hands, there's very little to show for their work on these dark government committees.
No contest for most seats in bigger districts
The labyrinthine nomination procedure throws up another issue and that's the natural nomination limit on the number of candidates. In Kwun Tong District, for example, there's eight seats up for geographic election. But how many candidates could there be? The answer is 10, maximum. Since every candidate needs three nominations from each of the three committees, the number of candidates is limited by the smallest of the committees. In Kwun Tong, that's the District Fire Safety Committee, which has just 30 members. Each District Fire Safety Committee member is only allowed to nominate one candidate. So if each candidate needs a minimum of three nominations from that committee, that's a maximum of 10 candidates able to reach the requirements.
It's worth repeating: there is a mathematical limit of 10 candidates for those eight seats, meaning only a quarter of the seats in Kwun Tong (ditto Sha Tin and Yuen Long) could have any competition, and that's before any shenanigans such as vetting committees booting off the undesirables or the government firewalling secret nomination committees.
Three Committees, Two Musts
It's presumably too late to change the rules now. But our government says it welcomes positive criticism and solutions, so here's a couple of "musts": a) immediately bulk up the District Fire Safety and District Fight Crime committees in Kwun Tong, Sha Tin and Yuen Long to increase the potential number of candidates per seat in those bigger districts and b) give every Three Committees member citywide a dedicated, published email address with certain benchmarks and expectations on response rate.
Oh and this needs to be done before the nomination period opens on Tuesday 17 October...
Otherwise, we’re left with a pretty poor design4 and an election hardly in the spirit of “patriots ruling Hong Kong”: more like a very small group of patriots giving jobs to their mates, and a long way from John Lee's promises that all are welcome to stand in the election as long as they are patriots and follow Basic Law.
PS Send me a message by replying to this email or email firstname.lastname@example.org or message 94104988, cheers!
Area Committee, District Fight Crime Committee and District Fire Safety Committee
and I'm someone who developed a script to find pictures of vehicles given partial license plates from police crash reports, so I'm not exactly a search newbie
FYI I only have about $400 in my bank account just in case some smartass (Joel) decides to Pepsi Where's My Jet? the hell out of this
Cynics will say it’s a pretty good design: but even so, limiting the candidates this way seems more like an oversight or blunder than an attempt to keep the elections quiet – if anything, having such a low contest rate will reduce turnout and muddy the optics of legitimacy. If the government is concerned about how this looks on the world stage, and has enough legal apparatus to stop undesirables taking seats, then why not have a rich field of candidates for every seat? Or are they terrified their apparatus doesn’t actually work?