Next Sunday will be an important date for the future of Hong Kong. On that day, about 240,000 voters in the subsector election of the Election Committee will head to the polls to select the 1,200 members EC.
Clearly this is not a fair and equal election. It is a shame that almost twenty years after the handover, Hong Kong people still cannot elect our Chief Executive, and we’re still hopelessly waiting for the universal suffrage that we were promised. Yet, the competition in the EC election this year is the most intense ever, particularly in the professional subsectors.
There are two reasons for this phenomenon. As the first EC election after the Umbrella Movement, the will to participate from the many so-called post-umbrella professional groups was strong, as these educated, middle-class and often younger professionals have fought together from the occupation movement to the Legislative Council’s rejection of the government’s political reform package in 2015.
A strong sense of re-awakening was evident in many professional sectors, working both within their own sectors as well as across different sectors, forming a strong bond and special camaraderie, fighting alongside one another in the struggle for democracy. They came to the understanding that this EC election will be particularly important for Hong Kong, as we will face a crucial crossroad and a critical choice, between a future with, or without, CY Leung.
CY Leung is obviously the most undesired Chief Executive in the history of the Special Administrative Region, pushing Hong Kong closer and closer to the abyss of divisiveness, social unrest and poor governance, and yet, many political pundits here are increasingly seeing him as the favourite in the upcoming CE election race. What can be more ridiculous than that? The reason is simple, because Hong Kong citizens don’t get to choose on our own, have no votes, but can only watch on the sidelines over a pre-selected field of candidates anointed by Beijing.
However, today, less than four months before the election day of the CE, no credible candidates have emerged or announced their candidacies. Not even CY Leung. Clearly, all eyes are on the outcome of the EC election next Sunday. A strong result from the democrats may influence Beijing’s strategy, as the democrats in the EC together with a sizeable anti-CY Leung faction in the business sectors may be insurmountable enough to make the nomination and eventual election of CY Leung an impossible task even with Beijing’s manipulation.
That’s why the professionals from different sectors have came out in force in this EC election. From the traditionally democratic strongholds such as legal, education and social services, to others with solid democratic support like accounting and information technology, to other subsectors where few candidates were fielded in previous EC elections, such as medical, health services, engineering, architecture, surveying and town planning, even Chinese medicine. Together they identify themselves as Democracy 300+, symbolising a target of reaching over 300 seats, that is, more than a quarter of the EC, which may turn out to be a critical tipping point in turning back CY Leung.
There are three principles that bind the Democracy 300+ candidates — first, an absolute no for CY Leung; second, restarting the political reform process for universal suffrage without pre-screening of certain candidates, and third, adhering to the basic core values of Hong Kong such as equality, justice and the rule of law.
Achieving our target in this EC election isn’t going to be easy. And it will require a high voter turnout. But historically, EC election turnout were always much lower than Legco elections. For a small-circle election that only a small fraction of the population has voting rights, this is not surprising.
And, regrettably the Registration and Electoral Office is not helping to make things easy. Not only that the number of polling stations will be greatly reduced — from 580 in the Legco election in September to only 110 next Sunday — meaning that most voters must travel a much longer distance to an unfamiliar polling location. Many may simply give up.
What’s worse is that most voters have yet to receive their polling information cards, causing much confusion and ignorance about the voting process and the location of their assigned polling stations. There’s simply no excuse for this, given that the voter registry is basically the same as the one just a couple months ago, and with a much smaller set of eligible voters. I don’t want to yet outright accuse the government of purposely driving down voter turnout, but that may well be the outcome.
That’s why your vote will be important, if you have one. Vote for Hong Kong, not for your own professional and sectoral interests. Please vote on behalf of those people who are not as privileged as you and I, who can vote next Sunday. Think about those who want to say no to CY Leung but have not a chance and a vote, and cast your votes exclusively for those who will cast him out. Hong Kong cannot afford another five years of divisiveness and incompetence. The choice on next Sunday may be our last chance.