As a public spirited Hong Kong permanent resident, I will be performing my civic duty this Sunday by voting in the Legco elections. Seeking to make my choices from an informed point of view, I have been compelled this week to burn the midnight oil in an attempt to broaden my knowledge of the multifarious characters vying for positions in our unaccountable legislator.
Poring over a compendium of textbooks, websites and government pamphlets I have finally managed, after ten years of residence, to gain a token understanding of the complex structure of Hong Kong party politics.
Crucial to my studies has been the “Introduction to Candidates” booklet (New Territories East edition) posted to me by the Electoral Office. It is a weighty volume equal in girth to a medium sized Russian novel and the plot is similarly convoluted and intricate.
Reading between the lines one can almost feel the raw edges of the scar tissue that nominally binds the new- and old-school Democrats into the same voting camp. Meanwhile the collective mug shots of the DAB party list look like they have been hacked from an online dating website catering exclusively to crooked estate agents.
Comparison with the idiotic heckles of the US Presidential campaign, Hong Kong’s sober political discourse looks like a TED talk. Yet the naïve posturing of many of the candidates reflects a lack of political sophistication normally associated with the hustings of sixth formers contesting the position of Head Boy.
In their defence, the spectre of political censorship hangs heavy over every manifesto, and the word “independence” is conspicuous by its complete absence.
Given the flawed rules underpinning our political system, it is actually the filibustering, shoe-throwing candidates that appear to be making the most sense. Despite their vilification by Beijing media, these supposed radicals offer ideas that would be routine topics in a UK retirement home. Nor do they suggest anything more extreme for our SAR than the sort of freedoms and benevolent government enjoyed by the average citizen of Costa Rica.
On Sunday I will be allowed to choose two candidates, one in my geographical constituency and one super seat functional constituency. Without giving too much away, both men I plan to vote for (and the candidates are mostly men) have wildly different haircuts and their own individual interpretation of the Legco smart/casual dress code.
While one of them likes direct action and is no stranger to the inside of a prison cell, the other one follows a more restrained line of argument. Despite this, they both agree and choose to cooperate on some fundamental issues.
Hong Kong’s political stalemate is in part due to the mystery in which the processes are shrouded. Unlike the subjects of Maths, Economics or English, no super-tutors, staring down at the masses from the sides of buses, promise to explain the nuances of legislative procedure. Self-education seems the only answer, and why not? Doesn’t every revolution start with a bit of reading?
The full candidates lists across constituencies and districts can be viewed here.