22 October 2016
Hong Kong needs sensible politicians who dare to express their own thoughts, like David Tang (left) does. Meanwhile, Alvin Yeung (right) played it safe in a candidates' debate, laying his sincerity open to question. Photos: FCC, HKEJ
Hong Kong needs sensible politicians who dare to express their own thoughts, like David Tang (left) does. Meanwhile, Alvin Yeung (right) played it safe in a candidates' debate, laying his sincerity open to question. Photos: FCC, HKEJ

Hong Kong needs sensible politicians with character

I have always taken my democratic responsibility as a citizen seriously.

Since turning 18, I have voted in the last two Legislative Council elections and take every opportunity to inform myself of our city’s political issues.

It was in this spirit that I tried watching some of the televised Legco election debates, including the recent New Territories East by-election debate.

Yet I could never bring myself to watch the debates completely from beginning to end, because they have always been an absolute joke — and not the funny kind, either.

This is not to say that election debates elsewhere are of the highest quality, but few would disagree that the equivalents in Britain and the United States at least do not have as strong a soporific effect.

Notwithstanding the bonkers and sometimes offensive comments made by the likes of Donald Trump, they actually contain more substance than the Hong Kong debates.

The main problem was that each candidate had too little air time, since there were too many candidates taking part.

The New Territories East by-election has seven candidates on single tickets, and it looks very overcrowded.

We cannot do anything about the number of candidates, because it is their right to stand, so it was virtually impossible to have much of a meaningful debate.

This problem was exacerbated by the program director and the debate host, who made the debate too much of a Q&A competition, with the timing machine constantly stressing out the candidates.

Yes, I know the time should be fairly allocated among candidates, and the program had to finish on time, but I am sure it must be possible to design a format more conducive to informative discussion.

By giving candidates so little time to answer, they adopted the following approach: spout their usual slogans, avoid answering the questions by criticising their opponents or keep repeating formulaic answers that do not truly reflect what they themselves are thinking.

Having said all this, I must say I found Edward Leung Tin-kei’s performance pretty strong despite the poorly devised debate format.

I felt he spoke his mind with a sense of purpose and drive.

Of course, it is easier for him to make his arguments.

With a growing anti-establishment mood, many people are receptive to the dangerous localist radicalism of Hong Kong Indigenous, in the same way that Trump’s abhorrent views appeal to his supporters in the States.

But still, it was refreshing to see someone simply able to be himself, and I believe many found him engaging.

In contrast, the pro-democracy representative, Alvin Yeung Ngok-kiu, failed to impress me, even though my views are politically much closer to his than to Mr. Leung’s.

A colleague of mine said that an election campaign is simply a short battle focused on giving people the right impression.

To a certain extent, I agree.

Nonetheless, I just can’t help but think Mr. Yeung takes this too far.

The ease with which he regurgitated overly polished sound bites reminded me of some of those Miss Hong Kong contestants who offer meaningless platitudes designed to just warm the hearts of the audience.

Playing safe might seem a good bet but can turn the public off.

It’s not just the dull and robotic delivery, but the lack of genuineness that is off-putting.

The only thing not insipid about Mr. Yeung is his fashion sense; I love his snazzy spectacles and impeccably cut suits, which are daringly flamboyant by the standards of the conservative world of the Bar.

However, no amount of sartorial flair can make up for the charisma of an undertaker!

Our politics are in deadlock, and electing cardboard cut-out candidates parroting the party line will only reinforce the public’s view that mainstream politicians are impotent, leading to the further rise of extremist factions such as the one Mr. Leung represents.

We should not resort to his demagoguery, but we cannot stick to the tired old script.

So what do we need?

I would say that we need sensible people with character — people who can inspire and win the confidence of voters to give them a chance to lead us out of the political quagmire.

In Hong Kong, we do have characters like Sir David Tang Wing-cheung, whose recent speech at the Foreign Correspondents’ Club reminded me of the caliber of thought and expression Hongkongers are capable of.

We need such characters to stand in the coming Legco election in September.

Hong Kong deserves far better than well-intentioned people like Mr. Yeung, a mere shadow of his illustrious predecessor.


Candidates for the Legislative Council seat for the New Territories East geographical constituency: Lau Chi-shing, Nelson Wong Sing-chi, Holden Chow Ho-ding, Albert Leung Sze-ho, Christine Fong Kwok-shan, Edward Leung Tin-kei and Alvin Yeung Ngok-kiu.

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