Thousands queue up in HK to make sure their voices are heard

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 25 November, 2007, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 25 November, 2007, 12:00am

Thousands of voters, most of them ethnic Chinese, turned out at the Australian consulate in Wan Chai to cast their ballots in Australia's second biggest offshore constituency.

The huge turnout saw queues stretching for hundreds of metres outside the Harbour Centre office.

Despite having been able to vote since November 12, most waited until the final day to cast their ballot.

Tony Hewson, a Hong Kong resident and former worker with the Australian Electoral Commission, said 'hundreds, even thousands' of voters had missed out on voting due to poor organisation.

Mr Hewson said many people were casting their voters in the seat of Bennelong, John Howard's electorate. But when polling closed at 5pm, many missed out.

'People turned away in droves when they saw a line stretch for 1km just to get to the polling booth,' Mr Hewson said, speaking at a function hosted in Central by the Australian Chamber of Commerce last night.

'They should have been prepared and have some understanding about the sheer weight of numbers of voters from Hong Kong. Why was the polling not held in a hall? The voters had to pass through security checks and pile into two lifts to cast their vote.'

But engineer Alex Cheung, 29, said at the consulate: 'In Hong Kong you don't get to vote and choose who is going to be your leader. So when we come back to Hong Kong, we realise how lucky we are that we can have a say in who is leading the country and what direction it should take.'

Mr Cheung voted for Mr Howard. 'I think he has been really good for the economy. People have said he is racist but I don't think he is.'

Hong Kong is Australia's second-biggest polling station behind London. According the consulate, there are more than 55,000 Australian passport holders in Hong Kong, 60 per cent of whom are ethnic Chinese.