Candidates need not declare every stance

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 07 August, 2008, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 07 August, 2008, 12:00am

The Legislative Council election next month is about putting into public office the people who are best equipped to serve our needs. In a system where our democratic voice in the affairs of government is so restricted, it is important that we use the opportunity wisely.

Finding out what is relevant about the candidates - their politics, backgrounds and views - is imperative in helping us choose the people we want to represent us. Part of this process involves groups of all kinds seeking the support of candidates for particular views or policies. Aspiring lawmakers must expect to come under pressure to declare their backing for one stance or another on a wide arrange of issues. That is all part of an election campaign.

The advertisements placed by the Society for Truth and Light in two newspapers, calling on candidates to support the kind of family values the group espouses, represent one form of such lobbying. In the advertisements, the society, a conservative and mostly Christian group, seeks backing from the government and all Legco candidates to support its belief that only a union between a man and a woman can legitimately constitute a marriage. It is concerned that such values are being eroded and it wants to ensure that the people elected to public office will support them.

The advertisements have, understandably, prompted a backlash from gay groups, which plan a protest today to express their opposition to such views. There is, with good reason, growing support for better protection of the rights of homosexuals in Hong Kong. Such a trend is in keeping with our city's reputation for diversity, tolerance and the protection of rights.

While the society and the gay groups are opposed over the sensitive issue of homosexuality, both are entitled to press politicians to heed their views. But it is important that discussions are conducted in a rational and calm manner. Candidates should not be obliged to declare their stance on every issue they are confronted with. We have free speech and that includes the freedom to decide what is and is not important to us. It must be left to them to decide - and we can make our voting decisions accordingly.