Olympics steal show from poll's independent candidates

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 23 August, 2008, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 23 August, 2008, 12:00am

Independent candidates with neither the support of political parties nor the renown of incumbent lawmakers say they have struggled to attract significant media coverage because of the Olympics.

Televised debates have been moved to non-prime time slots, later than in previous years. Some candidates have also complained that newspapers are forgoing mentioning the less familiar candidates to make room for extensive Olympics coverage.

Green Sense founder Roy Tam Hoi-pong, 28, who is making his first electoral bid in the Kowloon West geographical constituency on an environmental platform, said he expected to receive little media coverage due to his rookie status.

'But still, I've been quite surprised. It's even worse than I thought,' he said, suggesting that the focus on the Olympics meant less coverage of the election, especially where the less familiar candidates were concerned.

'I do feel that attention is more focused on the Olympics than on the election. This is a shame, since candidates like me can't get any attention for their platforms.'

New Territories East candidate Scarlett Pong Oi-lan, a Sha Tin district councillor without party affiliation, said that despite the fact she had taken part in several forums, media coverage of her did not go beyond including her name in some reports.

She said she had anticipated the situation and was saving her resources for the final two weeks, when she would hold publicity events, such as a helicopter ride to the border area. She also said she would put up more advertising, such as in the MTR.

'I do not have the same resources as political parties, so I have to be careful about when to use them and ensure they get maximum effect.'

Chinese University political analyst Ma Ngok said every election clashed with the Olympics, so there was always that distraction to a certain extent.

'But with the Olympics in Beijing, there's definitely a difference this year, mostly in the fact that newspapers would normally still concentrate on elections, but not this year,' he said.

'New candidates face the extra hurdle that this year there are too many candidates. In forums, they have limited time to make an impression, and papers ignore them.'

However, independent candidate Lo Wing-lok, who is contesting Hong Kong Island, was more optimistic.

'With little media coverage, you really do have to go out and grab people's attention yourself,' he said. 'But I've noticed people now pay more attention. Perhaps they realise the election is now drawing close.'

And Mr Tam said that even if he failed to attract significant interest in the coming weeks, he said he would still rather remain independent. 'At least I have been able to stick to my own principles and not a party's ones.'