Lawmakers' faces don't ring bells with public
Thomas Chan, Helen Yu Johnny Tam and Jolie Ho
Local politics have dominated the headlines this year, with the Legislative Council playing a central part in public life. But despite lawmakers' high profile, many remain barely recognisable to the public at large, according to a straw poll by the South China Morning Post.
With electioneering for next month's Legco polls under way, we interviewed and showed photographs to 150 people on the streets last week and found that on average, they were unable to name half of the 60 lawmakers who recently completed their four-year terms. A vast majority of respondents struggled to identify photographs featuring some of Hong Kong's functional-constituency representatives.
The most recognisable face was New People's Party chairwoman and former security minister Regina Ip Lau Suk-yee, with 145 respondents being able to name her. She was followed by League of Social Democrats' chairman 'Long Hair' Leung Kwok-hung, who was named by 141 people; and Legislative Council president Tsang Yok-sing, named by 140.
At the other end of the scale, import-and-export functional-constituency lawmaker Wong Ting-kwong topped the list of the most unfamiliar faces, with just five people being able to name him. Only 10 could give the name of information technology lawmaker Samson Tam Wai-ho, while industrial (first) lawmaker Andrew Leung Kwan-yuen and insurance lawmaker Chan Kin-por were recognised by 11 people.
All four are seeking re-election in September, with three of them - Wong, Leung and Chan - set to be returned uncontested.
Chan said the need for publicity was not as great for functional-constituency lawmakers, compared with those in the geographical constituencies running in direct elections.
'We're serving different segments of the electorate, and I've been elected automatically anyway,' he said, adding that he was a 'down-to-earth' lawmaker who neither yelled nor held up placards on the streets to attract public attention.
Political affiliation was another reason leading to the low recognition of functional-constituency lawmakers, said Tam, who claims to be an independent candidate and will compete against Charles Mok, chairman of the Hong Kong Internet Society.
Ivan Choy Chi-keung, a political scientist at Chinese University, said: 'The size of the electorate for functional constituencies is relatively small compared to that of geographical constituencies. Their ties with the public are not so close as well.'
The respondents were also asked to pick three lawmakers they thought were the most diligent. 'Long Hair' Leung came out on top with 46 votes, followed by Tsang with 41, and Labour Party chairman Lee Cheuk-yan and People Power's Wong Yuk-man, with 35 votes each.
According to the council's records, Leung, Tsang and Lee attended all full Legco meetings in the last term, while Wong's record stood at 94 per cent.
But Choy said that people's perceptions of diligence were largely based on media reports, and that was not fair to some lawmakers who were active in assessing bills and policies proposed by the administration.
'People usually judge a lawmaker by his or her level of activity in front of the cameras or in social movements. Seldom do they consider the lawmakers' performance in bills committees,' said Choy, referring to the bodies responsible for scrutinising legislative proposals before passing them to the council for a vote.
In a survey conducted by the University of Hong Kong's Public Opinion Programme in July, the three most popular lawmakers were Audrey Eu Yuet-mee, Tsang Yok-shing and Regina Ip. Their support rates were 57.2, 55.6 and 51.9 respectively on a scale of zero to 100.