America decides

US Presidential Election 2012

US consulate's mock election sees good turnout

Local youngsters pick Obama by a landslide as they get a taste of American-style democracy

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 08 November, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 08 November, 2012, 4:15am

"Ready for your big speech?" Simon Li yelled over the din of the crowd at the American consulate in Hong Kong.

His students, from Yew Chung Community College, were taking turns at the podium, raising their arms in imitation of US politicians on the campaign trail. They were among about 160 university and secondary-school students attending the consulate's election-watch party.

"I'd be comfortable with any candidate that wins," said Takudzwa Hodzi, a 20-year-old communications student from Zimbabwe. Hodzi and Li were photographed in a pose - an arm around the other's shoulder - imitating the bonhomie shown by President Barack Obama and Mitt Romney after recent TV policy debates.

Balloons - red, white and blue - hung from the ceiling. There was pizza on the table, while TVs blared the latest vote counts.

The event was designed to introduce students to American democracy. The youngsters were from all over the world, including Hong Kong, Pakistan, France, Russia, Macedonia, Sri Lanka, Zimbabwe and the mainland.

Around 130 students entered a mock polling booth and cast their "vote" for the next president of the United States. Mainland student Chan Cheng Chen, 23, held up his "I voted" sticker for the photographers as he left the booth - his first experience of casting a ballot.

Asked if he wanted mainlanders to be able to vote, he was shy and cautious: "Maybe. I'm not sure. From what the media say, the process is fair and democratic, but I've never really participated in the election process, so I can't really say that."

Several election-themed events were staged in Beijing. About 100 people gathered at the Beijing American Centre, and over 1,000 attended an event at the US embassy.

"I want my children to have an understanding that there's an alternative," said a businessman from Wuhan , who drove his two 10-year-old children to an election party at the centre. "They may not understand the whole concept at their age, but I want them to know the life we're living is different from the one outside."

Around noon, as polls were closing on the US west coast, the votes at the Hong Kong consulate were counted. It was no contest: Obama 118 votes; Romney seven.

Outside, others breathed a sigh of relief at Obama's victory in the real election. "It's good that things will stay the same," said Kai Peng, a 31-year-old data analyst. "We don't know what would have happened with the other guy."