Hot-button issues fail to inspire doubters

It's no use voting as politicians just ignore us, say those who stayed away

While yesterday's Legco election drew more voters than the poll in 2008, some people still chose not vote because they did not think it would make any difference to their lives.

Yuen Lai-kwan, a merchandiser living in Tsz Wan Shan, was among those who stayed away.

"There's no use voting. The politicians say one thing and do another," said Yuen, who has never voted in a Legco election. She said she had read all the election material sent to her but just found all the candidates boastful.

"Although sometimes what the pan-democrats say is right, the government does not care, like what happened over national education," Yuen said.

"Anyway, the current situation has not yet reached the critical point and I'll just look on. There has always been a balance between pan-democrats and the pro-establishment in every election. When the moment arrives, I'll come out," she said, adding she was pessimistic about Hong Kong's political environment.

Yuen also said she applauded the anti-national education campaign organised by student group Scholarism but did not think it would make a difference because the government did not care.

Another man, surnamed Lee, said he had been frustrated by the lawmakers' performance for many years and so decided not to vote this year.

''So what if I vote? It won't make a difference. The person I voted for the last time has done nothing to help us, the grassroots people,'' he said. But he would not say who it was he voted for in the 2008 election.

Hearing about all the infighting between the pan-democrats made him tired of politics, he added.

Some people were confused about their eligibility to vote. Two elderly people, who have been living in Britain for 30 years and returned to Hong Kong three months ago for a long holiday, went to the Sha Tin Town Hall polling station, only to find out they were not qualified to vote.

''I didn't know I had to register to become a voter a few months ago. I thought I would just have to walk in and present my Hong Kong identity card to vote,'' Wan Kin-fook, 75, said.

In Britain, he said, the government sent its citizens a letter before an election. Everyone had to present this letter at the polling station in order to vote, he said.

He and his wife, Lau Tuk, 72, said the government should have publicised the election and its voting requirements better.

While there are those whose view of politics is jaded, some first-time voters were keen to fulfil their civic responsibility.

''Our city has gotten into in a chaotic situation over the past years and this made me decide to vote for candidates who can truly represent Hongkongers," said a 19-year-old secondary school leaver.

And university student Grace Chan, 20, said it was everyone's responsibility to vote.

"In fact, the super seats are sort of universal suffrage, so casting a vote this time means taking one small step towards full democracy,'' she said.

James Hon Lin-shan, 63, who ended his anti-national education hunger strike early yesterday, said every registered voter should vote for the candidates who opposed the controversial curriculum.

This article appeared in the South China Morning Post print edition as: Popular poll fails to inspire the cynics