Apathy a pandemic among members of Election Committee

Only 1,194 of the city’s 7.3 million population have the privilege of picking the chief executive, yet more than half didn’t bother attending the final debate

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 21 March, 2017, 1:18am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 21 March, 2017, 3:44am

Social media is awash with details of Sunday’s debate between the three people hoping to be Hong Kong’s next leader. The debate was organised by the Election Committee, which will pick the city’s new chief executive this coming Sunday. It came as a surprise, therefore, that so few of the committee members showed up for the debate and fewer still bothered to ask questions of the candidates. The members not only failed to fulfil their responsibilities, they also reinforced the negative perception of the electoral process.

That 58 per cent of the 1,194 members did not attend the forum held at the AsiaWorld-Expo is regrettable. Of the 507 who showed up, only 37 per cent were prepared to ask questions. The result is that 19 of the 21 members randomly drawn to ask questions were pan-democrats. While verbal volleys were fired during the 140-minute session, the outcome is being seen by some as favourable to former finance chief John Tsang Chun-wah and retired judge Woo Kwok-hing. Some pro-Beijing members at the forum said they did try to ask questions but were apparently outnumbered by the rival camp.

Pan-democrats pledge more than 290 votes for John Tsang in Hong Kong leadership race

Only 1,194 of the city’s 7.3 million population have the privilege of casting ballots in the chief executive election. But their duty goes beyond casting a vote. A debate is one of the rare occasions where the candidates face off on stage. The public expected to learn more about their visions and platforms through their exchange with the Election Committee members at the forum. Unfortunately, the majority of members did not seize this opportunity to quiz the candidates. It is baffling why members of the committee were so unenthusiastic at the forum. While the majority showed no interest in grilling the candidates in front of cameras, they were more forthcoming in meeting them individually behind closed doors.

Some members may have thought there was no point in asking questions or attending the forum, as Beijing’s blessing for former chief secretary Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor means she is poised for a safe victory. Be that as it may, it is still the duty of Election Committee members to assess all candidates critically, and pin them down on issues of concern to the people. The televised forum would have been an ideal occasion for such interaction. It is too bad that so many Election Committee members did not see it in this light.