Candidates vying to become the city's first "super lawmakers" clashed on live television last night, using new strategies to impress the audience at a quick-fire debate that had echoes of those seen before March's chief executive election.
Instead of aggressively questioning his rivals, Democratic Party chairman Albert Ho Chun-yan spent half of his 3-1/2 minutes in the spotlight asking his Beijing loyalist rivals to give their views on contentious issues by raising their hands.
In contrast, independent candidate Pamela Peck Wan-kam attacked her rivals from across the political spectrum, while the Beijing loyalists were largely defensive as they outlined their election platforms.
It was the first televised debate for the seven candidates scrambling for the five Legislative Council "super seats" created in an electoral reform package in 2010. They will be elected by the 3.2 million voters who do not hold a vote in any other functional constituency.
Each candidate was given 3-1/2 minutes to direct questions to the rivals of their choice, in a quickfire format similar to those used in the chief executive election debates.
"You don't need to answer my question orally, just raise your hand if you agree," Ho, a veteran of the chief executive debates, said before asking whether the Beijing loyalists supported the release of Nobel Peace Prize laureate Liu Xiaobo and the vindication of the Tiananmen Square democracy movement, and whether they found the death of mainland dissident Li Wangyang - found hanged in June - suspicious.
Beijing loyalist candidates Lau Kong-wah, of the Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong, and Chan Yuen-han, of the Federation of Trade Unions, did not raise their hands. Starry Lee Wai-king, who leads a DAB slate, did not raise her hand either.
Chan spent more than two minutes advocating a law for standard working hours, but democrats then accused her of being responsible for people's hardships because of the party's Beijing loyalist stance.
"If there was no FTU, there would be a bigger setback for people's livelihoods," Chan countered.
Frederick Fung Kin-kee, of the Association for Democracy and People's Livelihood, said pan-democrats must maintain a third of the seats in the expanded 70-seat Legco, so they could veto constitutional changes.
Democrat James To Kun-sun targeted Lee, asking her whether she supported the government in pressing ahead with the introduction of the controversial national education curriculum in primary schools next month. Lee said the subject would become compulsory by 2015.