The perennial low voter turnout – usually less than 50 per cent – in Hong Kong’s elections is an ironic situation for a city that has been politi­cised to the hilt to be in.

For all their cri de coeur over the SAR’s democratic rights, many Hongkongers don’t seem to be interested in exercising the most fundamental of these freedoms – the right to elect their representatives.

The first modern elections in China were held in 1907, for Tianjin’s city council, and 1909, for provincial and municipal councils across Qing-dynasty China. It was in 1912 that the first national-level elections were held, to elect the National Assembly of the Republic of China. Voting was restricted to tax-paying and property-owning males over the age of 21 with at least elementary-school education or equivalent who could prove they had lived in the electoral district for a minimum of two years.

During the elections for the lower house that December, 42.9 million people took part in the voting, some 10.5 per cent of the total population. Bribery and vote rigging were rife and the National Assembly was doomed from the start.

The assassination of premier-elect Song Jiaoren, of the majority Nationalist Party, in March 1913, was a harbinger of a tragic litany of disasters to strike the fledgling republic in the following decades.