For "Asia's world city," we've got pretty dinky elections.
We can't vote for our chief executive. He's like Hong Kong's president, I guess, only much dinkier and prone to wearing bowties. He's chosen by a small committee of elites with business and political ties to that great big non-democracy to the North -- so, essentially, he's hand-picked by Communist Party heads in Beijing. Some free society this is.
We also can't vote for about half of Legislature -- a situation that is neither here nor there.
So, when we get a chance to vote for the measly other half of Legco that is not chosen by business interests, I at least try to show up.
The last thing I voted in were the 2010 by-elections. Loyal Joyceyland readers may remember that I let Hugo the Cat decide. That's how poor the candidates were.
Now we're in the run-up for District Council elections. In my mailbox, I found a candidate list so amateurish, it looks like it was drawn up by some kid running for high school class president. No, I take that back. In the States, high school races can be pretty sophisticated.
Here are my choices for West Kowloon:
#1. Chu King leung Alaric Bazanio, 53
People Power Party
The "leung" is lower case because that's the sloppy way in which he hand-wrote his name on his candidate card.
I have received no correspondence from him -- not a pamphlet, not an email. I Googled him and found zero online presence. All I know is that the People Power Party is a recently formed splinter group from the pro-democracy camp. Other than that, I have no idea what this guy's platform is.
Not only did he fail to set up a simple website -- or at least one I could find easily -- he apparently couldn't bother to find a computer to type up his candidate card. Or a typewriter. Or capitalize letters properly. His job title is written "legislative Councilor Assit". I wouldn't hire him as an English tutor, much less choose him for elected office.
First impressions count, and the lack of effort is not good.
#2. James To Kun-sun, 48
James seems to be trying more than Alaric, though that's not saying much.
He's sent me two emails and set up two websites, one in Chinese and one in English, that are unintentionally humorous, they are so earnest. The top post is called "My First Poster." It's like some kid saying "Look, Momma! I drew my first poster at school! It's a flower."
But he gets an A for effort. There are signs around the neighborhood and sweet elderly ladies handing out bilingual pamphlets in Olympic MTR. As far as I can tell, his party is the only one with English materials, which is not stupid considering the area's quickly changing demographic: Our neighbors are Indian, the family across the hall is Korean, and that whole ICC complex is filled with expat office workers. For some reason, there are an inordinate number of Japanese housewives who shop at Elements.
At least James has something of a platform. He clearly took time to figure out real local concerns, like that weird garbagey smell that comes from the harbor, or the fact that useful local businesses are being priced out to the inconvenience of residents. I think of district councillors as something like mini-mayors who take care of stuff like this. There used to be a small grocery, stationary shop and bakery next to my home, and they have all closed. I wait with baited breath to see if my local laundry will be next.
James -- save the laundry and get rid of that weird smell, and you have my vote.
He also has stated opinions on larger issues, like democratic reform. Whether you like what he has to say, at least he has something to say.
#3. Lau Kai Kit Vincent, 40
Like our friend Alaric, this guy has no obvious online presence except for a one-sentence mention in a Standard article.
I did get an email from him with a PDF attachment of a Chinese-language campaign poster. (Personally, I hate PDFs, but that is not his fault.) But I do hold it against him that he couldn't add two sentences in English.
Other than the usual political-babble on his poster, the most I know about him is that he is an ophthalmologist. If West Kowloon was hit by an eye-disease-related crisis, we'd be in good hands.
Here's Wikipedia's take on the Liberal Party: "[It] is an example of a political party with libertarian economic policies such as the opposition of a minimum wage, collective bargaining, and antitrust legislation.... The party does not advocate welfare entitlements."
So, it's basically a bunch of greedy rich guys? Considering that the West Kowloon voting district also covers areas like Shamshuipo, where some residents still need food donations, does this guy fit at all?
Saturday addendum: Vincent has sent me yet another Chinese-only email. And Liberal Party people have been standing in Olympian City mall for the last two days, though you can't really say they are canvassing exactly, since they have no pamphlets or materials, nor do they speak to anyone. They're basically human campaign posters staring inanely into space next to the Cafe de Coral. You know those pretty girls that shops employ to smile at customers, but who do nothing else? I encountered one at Broadway the other day -- she couldn't even tell me how a camcorder worked. Anyway, the Liberal Party people seem a little like that.
Once again, I am so underwhelmed I don't know what to say.
The first thing I ever voted in as the citizen of a free nation was the referendum on whether Quebec should separate. It was a close call. I highly doubt that it was my vote that did it -- that stopped separatists from breaking up the country. (Honestly, I think they would have failed even if they had won the vote, but that's a whole other blog post). But I remember feeling involved in a way that I never had in Hong Kong.
Still, I will be out on Sunday to vote. I may even wheel Chloe in for her first experience in a voting booth.