Cross-border traffic a hot issue for Choi Yuen voters
North District voters head to ballot boxes on Sunday, and the top issue on their minds are the problems caused by the influx of mainlanders into the frontier region.
One of the constituencies most affected by the cross-border traffic through the Sheung Shui railway station is Choi Yuen, the site of a tight three-way race for the district councillor seat. Residents want the government to lessen congestion and littering by mainland traders, among other issues.
Two challengers - Democratic Party lawmaker Wong Sing-chi and People Power community officer Peter Au Wai-kong - look to dislodge incumbent district council chairman So Sai-chi, from the Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong.
This is the third time Wong and So have run against each other.
Wong, who became district councillor there in 1991 before losing to So in 1994 by a narrow margin, said: 'I have a long connection with residents of Choi Yuen and I want to win back the seat where I kick-started my political career.'
Wong lost to So again in 2004 by only 100 votes. Currently an incumbent lawmaker in North District's Shek Wu Hui constituency, he decided to contest the Choi Yuen seat again as the nomination period came to a close in late September.
So was not impressed by his rival's decision. 'Wong did not do much for his constituency in the past four years. He probably knows he would lose there and is therefore running in another constituency,' he said.
Au, meanwhile, said he was surprised by the last-minute decision of Wong, who could run in another constituency where the pro-government candidate would be uncontested.
The Choi Yuen candidates must address the increasing number of parallel-import traders from the mainland who crowd around the train station, waiting to distribute goods or transact with customers. The resulting congestion and littering has troubled locals.
So said the mainland traders brought business and job opportunities to North District and that it would be difficult to keep them away. He proposed that the government allocate a piece of land as a marketplace for them, to reduce the disturbance to residents.
Wong said he had asked the government to step up law enforcement to tackle the crowding and rubbish problems.
He also said he kept in touch with companies to ensure adequate supplies of baby milk formula - a product sought by many mainland visitors - for domestic consumption to prevent shortages that angered local parents earlier this year.
Another issue at stake is the rising number of cross-border students who live in Shenzhen and attend Hong Kong schools.
So said he would call for more schools to be built and give priority to local students. He also suggested the government should provide school bus services to mainland students.
Au concedes he only has a 'slight chance' of defeating So, a veteran councillor. But he vows to continue serving even if he loses the November 6 poll, saying he would try for a Legislative Council seat next year.
Number of constituencies17
Number of candidates44
Number of voters162,736
Candidates' background breakdown