• Thu
  • Aug 28, 2014
  • Updated: 4:37pm
My Take
PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 01 July, 2014, 4:07am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 01 July, 2014, 6:33am

So what is Occupy's poll really saying?

One of our headlines yesterday read: "The people have spoken". But what exactly is the message?

That refers to the 787,767 votes cast in Occupy Central's mock referendum. The exercise has achieved a phenomenal level of participation. But does it make sense to interpret it as a de facto referendum? In a real referendum, there would have been other voting options besides the three offered, all of which featured public nomination of chief executive candidates.

The pan-democrats have condemned Beijing and the Hong Kong government for refusing to consider public nomination. Occupy Central offered a "referendum" with no alternatives. So, minus the 8.9 per cent who abstained, can we take it that more than 700,000 voters support public nomination? And could they be considered representative of the city's 3.5 million electors?

The answer is certainly no to both questions, because they were offered no other choices. First, we can't assume Occupy voters would show the same preferences in a real referendum. Second, the demographics of the voters would be interesting to study. It's possible the Occupy exercise attracted disproportionately younger voters whereas in a real poll you would have a more even age distribution with other voting preferences.

But regardless, the more than 700,000 Occupy voters are a self-selecting group that on average, would certainly take a more confrontational stance than the rest of the electorate. This could explain why an overwhelming 88 per cent of Occupy voters say lawmakers should veto any reform package that does not meet international standards by pre-screening candidates. This result contradicts two random-sample surveys conducted by Hong Kong University and Lingnan University in June, both of which found more than one in two Hongkongers want "one person one vote" even if there is pre-screening.

Occupy organisers said Beijing's white paper and the fight in Legco over funding for northeast New Territories new towns helped prompt the high turnout. So they tacitly agree the votes are not necessarily an endorsement of Occupy Central or pubic nomination, but a massive display of public anger and discontent - no different from a high turnout for the June 4 vigil and July 1 march.

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This article is now closed to comments

ascheng

Thank God there remained some precious though rare spots of sanity and impartiality in HK’s press, your column is one.
I just want to let known that I fully endorse your view most of the time, especially today’s column. And because of that I am critical of your editorial staff for their “the people have spoken” headline in respect to results of lat weeks voting by OC subscribers.
Anyway, keep up the good work, we need you.
Silent majority is by definition not vocal nor active, unless the situation is dire such as chaos and hk being total and patently clear to Beijing as becoming ungovernable (necessitating unilateral action on Central Government to take control, bugger the world opinion such as in June 4, they will just shake their head and go about their business, complaining only their like minded friends.
Now, choosing a colour to wear on a particular day is certainly not overly onerous therefore I wonder if we can take a page from Singapore’s recent “wear white” silent protest against “pink dots”. I respectfully suggest if the press, through columns like yours, would “suggest” such an action, there will be overwhelming response. I and friends in my circle will take notice and wear our feelings on our body on July 1 and whatever dateOccupy Central decides to carry out their threat. Food for thought.
Thanks Alex, keep up the good work.
Beaker
You seem to assume that the 750,000 who voted can't or don't read? Has it occurred to you, Alex Lo, Commie apparatchik, that people who went out of their way to vote read the 3 options and agreed with 1 or all of them and voted to express their agreement that HK should be able to choose their own candidate? You smugly assumed that people were duped into going to the polls only to find out they had no choice? Now, I turn your lack of logical thoughts back on you. What is any vote come 2017 saying if the choices for candidates are either this pink one, red one, or deep red one? What does a 'win' mean? So, here, answer your own question with only a minor substitution between the 3 choices the voters had, any of which seems like real democracy, and your favored choices that come 2017, HK people will only have 3 choices, any of which are a selection of puppets approved to follow orders from Beijing to corrupt HK society even further. Patriotism is Commie code for corruption. Don't you know?
wkyken
It seems to me that Beijing's white paper blunder triggered both the participation in the Occupy survey (I hesitate to call it a referendum; I save that word for more official exercises) and yesterday's march -- even if the actual figure was "only" about 200,000. So now the people of Hong Kong have spoken, and although the moderates are reportedly withdrawing because of the survey and the march, this is, in fact, the time Hong Kong needs them the most. It's obvious Beijing's view and the Occupy Central view are at opposite poles, so now what? If there is any chance for Hong Kong to get something that even vaguely resembles true democracy by international standards, it's the moderates who will get us there. Don't give up! It's people like Anson Chan -- with a vision for Hong Kong, yet realistic about what can be achieved with Beijing -- who will craft what Hong Kong finally gets in 2017.
whymak
Mr. Lo,
How many who voted on the referendum used faked ID numbers (no computer hashing algorithm verification), are non-registered voters, even worse, who hijacked ID numbers from siblings and grannies in the same household to boost the vote count?
I told my European (Swiss and French) and North American relatives and friends about this "unique" expression of democracy. They chuckled but didn't want to offend my sensitivities by criticizing HKers' sense of low self-esteem -- at least this is what's perceived. Yes, they couldn't understand why HKers reject our wonderful Chinese culture. Yes, one expressed shock by this delusional, bizarre exercise of democracy. Haven't sampled opinions from Australia yet. But I think they are likely similar.
Sooner or later, we will be the laughing stock not just of the mainland, but the educated citizens of the developed world too.
caractacus
Alex, you fool, you are missing the point: Hong Kong people don't like their government because it doesn't represent them.
It is now a mirror image of the model in China, unaccountable, untransparent and corrupt.
321manu
Mr. Lo, after a couple of reasonable columns, is back to dealing hogwash.
"And could they be considered representative of the city's 3.5 million electors?" --- this is about the only fair point in the entire piece. No, they can't be considered representative, because of the obvious selection bias of these 787K people choosing to cast a vote. On the other hand, unlike in a survey or poll, "representative" is not a huge issue. If you choose NOT to cast a vote in a referendum (or an election), that's your choice and too bad for you. But it's true this referendum does NOT tell us how HKers as a whole feel about the issue.
"In a real referendum, there would have been other voting options besides the three offered" --- Mr. Lo goes downhill from here. "abstaining", or voting "none of the above", is a perfectly valid option. Anyone who has ever taken a multiple choice exam in their life would realize this. Yet Mr. Lo fails to. And in a "real" referendum, often there is only 1 question, and 2 choices: yes and no. The number of options is irrelevant to its validity.
Would Occupy voters do the same on a "real" referendum? What a dumb question. It all depends on what the "real" referendum looked like. If it's the same as this one, why would voters vote any differently?
Do demographics play a role? Sure. But Lo is again confusing a poll with a referendum. A poll requires representation; a referendum requires participation. Mr. Lo needs to brush up on some basics.
321manu
"So they tacitly agree the votes are not necessarily an endorsement of Occupy Central or pubic nomination,"
---huh? The anger over the white paper no doubt drove turnout. But if the people who voted didn't want to endorse public nomination, they didn't have to. They simply could have abstained. The ones who voted for public nomination can absolutely be assumed to be endorsing it, since they passed over a ready alternative. Besides, if people's anger made them change their mind on an issue...well...bottom line is that their mind is now changed. A referendum can only assess what their mind is on an issue; it doesn't speak to how it came to be so. The more Mr. Lo let's his inner CCP stooge get the better of him, the dumber he sounds.
timliu01@hotmail.com
Looking at the number of votes:
20/6 (12 hours) ...... 400K
21/6 (24 hours) ...... 200K
22/6 (24 hours) ...... 100K
23 - 29/6 (7 days) ... <100K
Given the time, the persuasion, the convenience of the voting method and the catalytic effect of the White Paper, there are still more than 80% of the eligible voters preferred not to vote, indicating that they are not interested in the matter or they are against it.
The result is not really that convincing.
chuchu59
I always take comments from posters with ***** usernames with a grain of salt. The turnout of 800k is nothing to be sneezed at yet people like you continually belittle the results by stating there are people who had not voted citing a host of half-baked reasons. I challenge the nayers to start their own poll to gauge opinions from voters who are 1/ against genuine universal suffrage,2/ not interested in genuine universal suffrage 3 against public nomination. Include more if you wish.
Of course this kind of poll will be hugely divisive for HK as it pits one sector against the other but the nayers rehash baseless arguments against what is really an impressive turnout figure.
asiaseen
" but a massive display of public anger and discontent"
That, Mr Lo, is the whole point. You could have spared us the rest of your superficial assumptions.

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