How the reform stalemate has fueled voter cynicism

May 08, 2015 16:18
Carrie Lam (in blue suit), Audrey Eu, Andy Lau and Chow Yun-fat (inset, from left) have seen their names crop up in the discussion on Hong Kong leadership. Photos: CNSA, HKEJ, internet

The government's rigid stance on the 2017 chief executive election is prompting more Hongkongers to become disillusioned about the city's political future and prospective leaders.

After a show of anger initially, which manifested in the form of the Occupy protests last year, the mood among people is now veering to cynicism and apathy.

Proof of this comes from the latest opinion poll conducted by the Concern Group for Public Opinion on Constitutional Development.

Asked about their preferred choice for Hong Kong's next leader, as many 55.8 percent of the respondents said they have no opinion.

Among those who expressed an opinion, there was no consensus on who would make the ideal candidate. None of the names thrown up secured even double-digit support in percentage terms. 

Chief Secretary Carrie Lam secured just 5.5 percent support, while Audrey Eu of Civic Party ranked the second with 3.6 percent.

As for Leung Chun-ying, the incumbent chief executive, he fared even worse than Eu by securing just 3.1 percent support.

Other names mentioned by the respondents included Legislative Council chairman Tsang Yok-shing, Regina Ip of New People Party, Alan Leong of Civic Party, former financial secretary Anthony Leung, lawmaker Leung Kwok-hung, and two former chief secretaries -- Henry Tang and Anson Chan.

Some interviewees mentioned other interesting names, such as singer and actor Andy Lau and movie star Chow Yun-fat, but they ranked at the bottom of the list with less than 2 percent support.

Of course, one can argue that the survey should not be taken too seriously, as it took in the responses of just a thousand people and may lack scientific basis.

That may indeed be the case, but no one can deny that the findings send a stark message -- that Hong Kong people lack confidence in their politicians' ability to deliver a better future for the city.

While Leung has been seen as someone who is putting the interests of Beijing above that of Hong Kong, people are also not convinced that others can do a much better job.

Even Carrie Lam, who has earned high popularity due to her civil servant background, is not seen as the right person to take the chief executive post.

She may be a good government official, but lack of vision and insight with regard to a plan for the city's future is seen as a handicap.

If she wants to be a chief executive candidate, she must be brave enough to speak out for Hong Kong people, as well as lay out a solid roadmap for Hong Kong's future development without blindly toeing the Beijing line, observers say.

Given the apprehensions on Lam and all the other prospective candidates, it is clear that Hong Kong people have no ideal leader right now.

The survey showed that 41 percent of the respondents were opposed to the government's political reform plan, and that they want to the right to nominate their candidates directly without pre-screening by Beijing.

However, 50 percent said they were not opposed to the proposal currently on the table, indicating that the "take it first" argument has gained acceptance.

As the election process will ensure that only two or three pre-selected candidates will compete for the top job -- a system not much different from the existing small-circle election -- people realize that they don't really have much choice.

But as the survey has shown that more than half of the respondents have no preferred candidates for the chief executive post, it would be great if authorities accept a proposal put forward by some scholars to count blank votes in the election.

That could enable people to veto candidates and make their voice heard, sending a message to Beijing.

A blank vote could serve as the best tool for change.

But don't make any bets! 

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EJ Insight writer