Lack of availability of English-language election information

Half of the 74 lists of candidates running for office only provide policy details in Chinese

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 21 August, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 21 August, 2012, 3:08am

In the most hotly contested Legislative Council election in years, every vote could matter - including those from Hong Kong's 450,000 non-Chinese residents.

However, only half of the 74 lists of candidates running for the directly elected and "super lawmaker" seats have provided English materials to explain where they stand on policy issues.

But even this is an improvement on the last election in 2008, when only 12 of the 53 geographical constituency candidates provided bilingual leaflets.

This has emerged from searches by the South China Morning Post of advertisements registered at election offices and online last week. It found that 36 lists produced leaflets or online material with substantial English content to introduce the candidates and their policy platforms.

The remainder use English only for their names and slogans.

According to the government's population census last year, 6.4 per cent of the city's population were non-Chinese.

The Registration and Electoral Office said about 460,000 registered voters had chosen to receive election-related information in English this year but it could not provide a breakdown by constituency.

Among seven lists contesting the newly-created "super lawmaker" seats - in which the 3.2 million voters who do not have a vote in any other functional constituency are eligible to cast ballots - six have provided English material. The exception is the list headed by independent candidate Pamela Peck Wan-kam.

On Hong Kong Island, which has the highest non-Chinese population, nine out of 14 candidates have distributed bilingual advertisements. But in Kowloon East, where non-Chinese make up only 3.1 per cent of the population, only two lists cater to English and Chinese readers. In New Territories West, nine of the 16 lists offered bilingual material.

Some candidates apparently have specific targets when distributing material in English.

For instance, the Civic Party ticket led by Dr Kwok Ka-ki and pro-Beijing Federation of Trade Unions' Alice Mak Mei-kuen gave English leaflets to Tung Chung residents to lay out their policies related to the district.

Seven of the 19 rivals in the New Territories cater to non-Chinese readers, as do three of the nine Kowloon West candidates.

Democratic Party vice-chairwoman Emily Lau Wai-hing, running in New Territories East, admitted she had initially forgotten to cater to voters who could not read Chinese.

Most candidates from the pro-establishment Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong do not have English materials, except Tsang Yok-sing, running in Hong Kong Island and Starry Lee Wai-king for the super seat.