Running tips

PUBLISHED : Monday, 03 October, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 03 October, 2011, 12:00am


The chief executive election is currently garnering much of the public's attention, yet nominations for the district council elections officially ended last week and the polling date is only just over a month away.

The scant consideration given to these elections by our news media has focused on the participation of political heavyweights, because of the 'super district council seats' that will be part of the next Legislative Council.

This has left the important issues underexposed. District council elections are important; these seats are returned by the most democratic election method in Hong Kong. Even with the number of government-appointed seats - 68 of the existing 102 will remain for the next four-year term - district councils are the most representative political body in our city.

Also, the district council race is one where individuals who are not affiliated to a party or organisation have the biggest chance of entering - and winning. For voters, this is where they elect the people who will be dealing with issues and problems closest to home, literally.

There is no better time to look at whether this city's democratic development is indeed in step with all the talk of democracy, equality and rights that continues to dominate our political discourse. District council elections have the lowest 'threshold' for candidature and, yet, of the record number of candidates this year, there is only one more woman standing for election than in 2007. Discounting those who have dropped out of the race, there are 165 female candidates contesting these seats - that's 17.6 per cent versus 18.1 per cent in 2007.

The government's latest provisional male to female ratio of the city's population shows there are only about 87 men to every 100 women (in 2007, it was 90 men for every 100 women). While women supposedly 'hold up half the sky', Hong Kong women hold up more than half, but have only 18.8 per cent representation in the district councils.

The problem doesn't seem to be that of the electorate; the success rates of female and male candidates in 2007 were roughly the same. So we must look at the number of women signing on.

The North District of the New Territories has the lowest women candidate participation this year, with only women running.

Compared with districts fielding the most number of female candidates - Wan Chai, Tuen Mun and Sha Tin (between 26 and 28 per cent) - the gender disparity seems unnatural.

Are our political parties doing enough? It would seem that they are trying, given that two of the three candidates in North District are backed by one or another of the parties. But we also find that, in more than a handful of districts, women candidates are pitched against one another.

Co-ordination seems to be lacking. For all our women's groups, none seems to have been interested in handling the task. We need more women - of any political persuasion - to take an interest in public office and we need a lot more organised efforts in getting women onto the ballot, and winning. Only then will our voices be truly heard.

Alice Wu is a political consultant and a former associate director of the Asia Pacific Media Network at UCLA