kevin sinclair's hong kong
Everyone's talking about democracy. They all want more of it. Voting for politicians, it seems, means all dreams will promptly come true. Cloudy skies will turn blue. Jobs will mushroom. Children will behave. Dogs will not bark. Taxi drivers will carry maps. All problems will be solved when we get to vote for 60 Legco members and the chief executive.
Oh, really? How does it work in practice?
I don't have much experience with democracy. Since I reached voting age, I've spent my life in British colonies or Hong Kong. But from the first electoral tussle here, I've dutifully registered to vote and have been to the ballot box on every single occasion.
Not much good it has done me.
First of all, most of the people for whom I vote seem to lose. I have about as much luck with politicians as with horses.
The ones who get elected don't do much for me. My worries are not their concerns. Let's run through elected people who are supposed to represent me. What do I owe them?
At the bottom of the power ladder - but the elected person with most direct influence on my life - is the Residents' Village Representative. He was elected unopposed last summer in the first village elections in which non-indigenous residents had the vote.
I wrote asking for his help on a purely village matter. He didn't bother to reply.
What's democracy gained me here? Not a thing.
Next is Sai Kung District Councillor Hiew Moo-siew. There were two candidates for the Pak Sha Wan constituency in the district council elections last September. I wrote to both saying I would cast my precious ballot for whoever promised to consider my problems and act, where they thought proper, on my behalf.
Mr Hiew replied. So last November 23, I dutifully put on a shirt and sandals and went down to the school hall at Ho Chung and voted for him; so did 1,389 others.
Last week, I wrote to him about a pothole in my road fast developing into a potential axle-breaker. Could he please ask the Highways Department to look at it?
Despite his pre-election promise, there was no answer.
Living in New Territories East, I am amply blessed with an over-abundance of legislative councillors who supposedly represent me. I've got more politicians than a water buffalo has flies.
In theory, as I understand democracy, they opt to stand for public office and if elected, are supposed to do their best for the area they represent.
Do they? I haven't a clue. None of these five worthies ever bothers to answer my e-mails. When issues come up which affect their area, I send them questions. None ever answers.
It seems that rather than being concerned with issues that worry their constituents - eg, me - they spend all their time bellowing about China and the importance of democracy.
There were 26 candidates for five seats in New Territories East in the September 2000 poll. The five who got in were Lau Kong-wah (with 66,943 votes), Emily Lau Wai-hing (63,541), Andrew Cheng Kar-foo (49,242), my old pal Andrew Wong Wang-fat (44,899), and Wong Sing-chi (25,971).
Well, come the next Legco election in September, none of this sorry lot is going to get a vote out of me. They'll have to find another sinecure to pay them $55,220 a month plus $12,000 for entertainment and expenses.
Tough luck for them, but if they can't bother to answer a constituent, they can't expect votes. So if someone asks me what I personally have got out of Hong Kong's limited fling with democracy, I'd have to say: not very much.
I'm a bit puzzled about what I could expect if we had a fully elected Legco, which everyone has got so worked up about.
Many existing members, including the sainted Democrats, want to shovel out money for dubious causes. Well, they are not alone. Government departments are well staffed with wastrels who spend billions on ridiculous projects.
What we need are politicians who are fanatics about efficiency, revolutionaries when it comes to forcing through new ideas, radicals in introducing level playing fields for all the people, uncompromising extremists when it comes to cutting waste, and dedicated militants who demand private sacrifice for the public good.
Alas, such people do not stand for election. Nobody would vote for them.
'If someone asks me what I have got out of our limited fling with democracy, I'd have to say: not very much'