Do election forums have any real value? When nominations for the May 16 Legislative Council by-elections closed earlier this month, there were concerns that the media - lacking the interest in a showdown between pan-democrats and major government allies - might shun the event by not holding election forums. So it was a tad amusing when six out of eight candidates running in Kowloon West turned up yesterday for a Commercial Radio debate, which made observers doubt the true value of such debates. When as expected, League of Social Democrats' Wong Yuk-man - who resigned from Legco to trigger the by-election seen by him and his colleagues as a de facto referendum for universal suffrage - used the debate as a platform to appeal for a big turnout, his rivals seized the opportunity to attack him as well as the referendum exercise. 'Yuk-man, do you know which clause of the Basic Law you have broken?' asked independent Lam Yi-lai, referring to claims by Beijing loyalists that the referendum exercise has broken the Law. 'You are subverting our nation. You can be jailed.' Wong Weng-chi, a student seeking the introduction of universal suffrage by 2012, also got burned. Former Liberal Party member Chiang Sai-cheong, addressing Wong, said: 'I am known as Chiang Sir because I have worked in the education sector for so long, and you are merely a student ... I have a better edge than you.' Caught between a rock and a hard place The government has always said elections are an opportunity for people to exercise their civic duty, so why is lawmaker Lam Tai-fai, who heads a school with his name in Sha Tin, complaining about it being turned into a polling station in the by-election? 'Whether I accept or not the government's request will make me look as if I have taken a wrong position,' he said. The reason: the by-election is described by Secretary for Constitutional Affairs Stephen Lam Sui-lung as 'unnecessary' because it was artificially engineered by the resignation of lawmakers from the Civic Party and the League of Social Democrats. Maverick gets his message across He might have resisted the temptation, as some have suggested earlier, to join the by-election fray, but former lawmaker and maverick infectious disease specialist Lo Wing-lok is not content with just airing his views through his blog and columns. He is taking further steps to boost his public profile by authoring a liberal studies textbook on public health, after panning other textbooks as 'unspecialised' and 'full of mistakes'. He is the first local doctor to take on this endeavour. His version of events include photos and newspaper clippings of himself and a caption that reads 'Dr Lo is one of the first few doctors who supported a mass culling of chickens during the bird flu pandemic'. The textbook will be available in September. Ex-activist has to accept political limitations Having a sense of mission to be an agent for change in an imperfect society is always something to be commended, but as assistant to the secretary for food and health Paul Chan Chi-yuen has found, being inside the establishment is worlds apart from his previous incarnation as an activist of the Roundtable policy group. Two years into the job, whose rank and efforts have attracted little public attention, Chan admitted in an interview with a publication by the Centre of Development and Resources for Students, in his alma mater the University of Hong Kong, that while he could freely air his ideas in the past, now he had to accept political limitations and that some things cannot be achieved. His words of advice for student activists? 'You have to be prepared that people may doubt your motivation, especially as Hong Kong is not a society passionate about social advocacy.'