Sunday, 9 September 2012

Voting for Our Say

Today Hong Kong held its Legislative Council elections and for the first time I voted.

It is also the first time there are 40 of the 70 seats up for grabs which is why it's important for people to decide who they want to represent them, but also demonstrate to Beijing that we are responsible people who are ready for universal suffrage.

The polling station near where I live was clearly marked with a giant yellow banner and when I arrived around 12:15pm, there was a steady trickle of voters.

After checking in with our Hong Kong identification cards, we were given two ballots, one for the geographical constituency and the other for functional constituency, and a piece of board where a chop with a tick mark was attached to it.

It was strange for a polling station to have four makeshift cardboard booths, but oh well. Hong Kong isn't exactly known for flexing its democratic muscle.

The ballots were huge -- they contained all the names of the candidates in Chinese and English and included all their pictures as well. This is an interesting contrast to Canada where you are given a small piece of paper with the candidates' names and their party affiliation and that's it.

The ballots were then folded in half and inserted into the respective boxes.

However I have to say it was very difficult to decide who to vote for.

There are so many pan-democrat parties running that their platforms are quite similar, so why break out into different groups? Why not band together to make their voice stronger?

The other issue was that while most of the parties were concerned about national education (a dead issue for now), housing and the economy, none of them seemed to have strong opinions about the environment which was disappointing.

Some parties tacked on the environment at the end of their list of concerns as an afterthought than a priority.

While jobs, housing and the economy are important, so is breathing relatively clean air and having green environments to live in.

In the end none of the parties were particularly aligned to my beliefs, but I eventually decided on one.

It'll be interesting to see the results when they come out tomorrow. Some are predicting a strong pan-democrat reaction as a response to the anti-China sentiment, but which pan-democrats? With so many to choose from, they have certainly diluted their own vote.

In any event, it was also interesting to see candidates do their last-ditch campaigning today, speaking into bullhorns or their campaign cars and trucks going up and down streets.

I really hope more people come out to vote today. If anything we need to show Beijing we are a civil society that is mature enough to handle free elections.

It cannot keep holding us back. Because if they push back the date again (now it's 2017), we're just going to protest even more. If they were scared of Friday night's sit-in at Tamar protesting against national education, imagine what the turnout would be for universal suffrage?

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