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Wednesday, August 24, 2016, 00:42

Minorities feel neglected by election candidates

By Willa Wu

HONG KONG – Ethnic minorities in Hong Kong are "very willing" to vote in the upcoming Legislative Council (LegCo) election, although they hardly find any candidates representing their needs and concerns, revealed a survey on Tuesday.

The survey, conducted by two local non-government groups - the Hong Kong Council of Social Service (HKCSS) and the Hong Kong Christian Service (HKCS) - between June 28 and July 25, interviewed 476 ethnic minority respondents eligible to register as voters in the September LegCo election.

Among them, all of whom are Hong Kong permanent residents aged 18 and above and ordinarily reside in Hong Kong, 55 percent are registered voters while 29 percent did not register despite being qualified to do so.

Some 55 percent of registered minority voters stated that they are willing to vote in this coming election. The figure is higher than the overall actual turnout rate in Hong Kong - 53.05 percent - in the last LegCo election, according to the official website of the 2012 election.

Meanwhile, more than 78.6 percent of registered minority voters said they are definitely interested in voting. They also said they want to know more about local elections.

However, despite their willingness to vote and their interest in the election, some 70 percent said they could not find any candidates who properly represent them or express their needs and concerns.

Among candidates contesting in the city's "super set" election - the District Council (Second) functional constituency - there were nine teams.

But only one candidate from the Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong (DAB), Holden Chow Ho-ding, mentioned ethnic minority voters' concerns in his election platform, according to China Daily research based on election releases and open documents.

At a party level, only the DAB, the Democratic Party and the Civic Party touched on ethnic minority-related issues. Among them, the DAB may have been more dedicated as it had serviced the group via its ethnic minority service center since 2005.

“The reasons why ethnic minority voters cannot find a representative are manifold," said Si Sze-ming, Ethnic Minority Services Team leader of HKCS, "one is that more than half of the candidates’ publicity material is unintelligible."

His team examined publicity materials, including candidate introduction, leaflets and websites, from nine candidate lists contesting the "super seat", and found out half of them were in Chinese only.

But according to the survey, 89.7 percent of the respondents are not able to read Chinese.

Among the 29 percent who did not registered as a voter, 81.5 percent said they are not familiar with Hong Kong’s political and election systems and 69.8 percent said they had no idea how to vote.

Perveen Akhtar, 36, a Pakistani stay-at-home mother, said she really wanted to vote as she was told that “if you vote, your voice will be heard and your trouble will be solved.” Akhtar was born and raised in Hong Kong. However, she had never registered as she did not know where to get the necessary information.

“Voting is a responsibility for a Hong Kong person. I always want to know more but there is nobody I can turn to,” she said.

Meanwhile, the survey also studied issues that ethnic minority voters concerned the most. Top three on the list include the financial burden of housing, difficulties in finding jobs due to strict Chinese language requirements and insufficient provision of Chinese language courses for adult ethnic minorities.

Mui Wai-keung, chief officer of family and community service of HKCSS, urged candidates to listen to the ethnic minorities on issues on education, housing and employment and work out sensible ways to convey their election platforms to minority voters.

He also suggested both the government and Registration and Electoral Office enhance their promotion of voter registration to encourage more eligible ethnic minority voters to step out and vote.

Data from the latest population census conducted in 2011 showed Hong Kong is home to 146,000 ethnic minority residents (excluding foreign domestic helpers), accounting for 2.5 percent of the total population.

The government has not yet revealed the voting rate among ethnic minority voters in the past two LegCo elections.

Candidates who will run in the District Council (Second) Functional Constituency are: Starry Lee Wai-king, Holden Chow Ho-ding, Wong Kwok-hing, Chan Yuen-sum, Leung Yiu-chung, James To Kun-sun, Kwong Chun-yu, Ho Kai-ming and Kwan Wing-yip.

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