Published: 22:51, November 29, 2023 | Updated: 09:36, November 30, 2023
Voters gear up to choose the best in district council elections
By Dominic Lee

As we approach Dec 10, the date set for the upcoming district council elections, there is an undeniable buzz in the air. The streets are becoming a colorful array of promotional banners and flags, each more eye-catching than the last. Candidates, for their part, are leaving no stone unturned in their bids to court voters, intensifying the competition that is already heating up. This election, it should be noted, is not just any ordinary exercise in democracy. It is the first district council election since Hong Kong revamped its electoral system and refined its district governance mechanism — an event of considerable significance. As such, it is of utmost importance that voters exercise their voting rights, choosing district councilors who not only possess the necessary competence and sense of responsibility but also exhibit a deep-seated commitment to community service.

The new district councils will be diverse bodies, composed of appointed members, representatives elected by local committees, and directly elected councilors. This inclusive and varied structure has been carefully designed to attract and select individuals who have demonstrated their patriotism and commitment to the country. The aim is to ensure that the council is helmed by patriots, thereby putting an end to the previous chaos caused by overpoliticization in the district councils. The Candidate Eligibility Review Committee, the authoritative body responsible for vetting candidates, has affirmed the validity of all 399 nominated individuals. These candidates for the local election come from a broad spectrum of backgrounds — workers, middle-class professionals, grassroots activists, community leaders with extensive local experience, industry pioneers, social elites, and energetic young people — thus bringing a rainbow of perspectives and a plethora of fresh ideas to the election table.

Despite the restructuring, the bid for district council seats remains competitive, if not even more fierce. In the direct elections, each district on average will see some four candidates battling it out for two available seats. As for the contest for the seats to be elected by local committees, 228 individuals will be vying for 176 seats. The candidates, therefore, must not only showcase their skills and articulate their political platforms, but also promise to serve their community sincerely and act as an effective conduit to the government on local issues.

In recent days, candidates have been working round-the-clock, promoting themselves and canvassing for votes. They are engaging with the public, sharing their political platforms, and communicating their aspirations. Each candidate has a distinct focus — be it community facilities, regional planning, transportation support, improving the medical environment, or enhancing local sanitation. This focus is a reflection of their understanding of the issues that their constituents care about and their philosophy of community governance.

Therefore, voters should value their votes, participate wholeheartedly in the elections, and choose the best from among the candidates — those patriotic, competent district councilors who have both the will and the ability to serve their communities

The ongoing election campaign is also setting a new standard for political decorum. Across Hong Kong, there is a noticeable absence of acrimony and personal attacks that have unfortunately become the hallmark of many political campaigns worldwide. Different candidates and teams can be seen promoting and canvassing at the same locations, yet they maintain a friendly spirit, interacting rationally, and each going about seeking voter support in their unique ways. The past culture of slander, personal vilification, and smear campaigns has thankfully been cast aside, and the unsightly behavior of pasting defamatory posters in public places is a thing of the past.

The significance of the upcoming district council elections cannot be overstated. The work of the district councils is intimately connected with the daily life of every resident. A high-quality, efficient, and service-oriented district council is believed to be more effective in addressing the needs of residents, conveying their concerns to the government, and aiding the government in implementing district-level policies. Councilors from diverse backgrounds can bring their unique professional strengths to bear, thus enabling the government’s livelihood policies to be more effectively implemented. The upcoming elections will have a direct impact on Hong Kong’s district governance and the welfare of residents. Therefore, voters should value their votes, participate wholeheartedly in the elections, and choose the best from among the candidates — those patriotic, competent district councilors who have both the will and the ability to serve their communities.

The author is the convener at China Retold, a member of the Legislative Council, and a member of the Central Committee of the New People’s Party.

The views do not necessarily reflect those of China Daily.