Is it true there is no big issue for aspirants contesting the elections of the first SAR legislature? Is Hong Kong doing so well there is nothing important for candidates to debate? Democratic Party aspirant Lee Wing-tat seems to believe so. He said there was no single issue that was controversial and divisive enough to become the talk of the town. Mr Lee and his colleagues are not alone in this view, judging by the performance of other candidates in the election forums, which featured trivial disputes of little relevance. For instance, the Democratic Party appears obsessed with the Democratic Alliance for the Betterment of Hong Kong's (DAB) failure to support the call for the release of Chinese dissident Wang Dan in the pre-1997 Legislative Council vote. The party also wanted to pin down the DAB on its views over the rehabilitation of the June 4 Tiananmen Square crackdown. The DAB has been preoccupied with the right of abode blunder of the two Democrats, Albert Chan Wai-yip and John Tse Wing-ling, who were forced to withdraw from the polls. The DAB demanded the Democratic Party clarify whether disciplinary action would be taken. It seems candidates cannot conduct sensible debates the public can relate to. If the candidates would pay attention to what the public says in the media, they would find plenty of subjects to debate - the grievances of the middle-class over the Government's confusing housing policy, concerns of parents about mother-tongue teaching and workforce worries of surviving the economic downturn. These are issues of greater interest to the majority of the population. The candidates choose not to address these pressing issues because they may find them too controversial to handle. Take the housing policy: for parties wanting to gain supporters from the middle-class, this should have been a priority issue. Unemployment is also an issue worth debating for those wanting to win more grassroots support. Questions over the Government's policy to heavily subsidise public housing tenants to buy their units, and its linkage to the damage to the home ownership scheme and private property market should be debated. To what extent the property market slump has affected jobs in other sectors is also pertinent. But the parties are avoiding such questions. By wading into the housing subject, they may win more votes from the middle class, but risk losing more by offending millions of voters living in the subsidised housing estates. On the education front, they can stimulate debates on how the mother-tongue teaching policy can be pursued. Are the demands of parents for more English-teaching schools reasonable? Or should they be condemned for being so obsessed with English teaching that they forget mother-tongue teaching is the most effective medium for education? Again, the candidates seem to find the questions too sensitive. It is politically incorrect and socially undesirable for them to promote English teaching. But if they say the demand for more English-teaching schools is unreasonable, they risk offending those anxious parents who believe they are only fighting for the best education for their children. The politicians may believe side-stepping such issues is a clever policy, but by sitting on the fence and ignoring them, they will only drive away the voters. The likely consequence will be that people will doubt the politicians' ability to represent them and they will lose faith in the system altogether. Is this really what the politicians want?