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Chan Chi-kit, The Hang Seng University of Hong Kong


Chan Chi-kit, The Hang Seng University of Hong Kong

Dear Hongkongers,
When I write to you, I don’t know if you would, or could, cast your vote in the District Council election. Days before this election, even the government could hardly guarantee our voting right this time. Well, in fact, the government could now hardly make sure our roads are safe to drive, our malls are safe to visit, and we do not know when the Chinese soldiers will go out from their barracks again.
Election is a significant sign of human civility. It replaces war by debates. It turns bullets as votes. It allows peaceful transition of power. More importantly, it demonstrates the political willingness of the people by reasons and rules, instead of violence and fear.
Election cannot make all happy. Winners cheer, losers jeer. Yet both winners and losers must respect the voice of people humbly. Election therefore tells us how civilized a society is --- whether our administration can ensure an open, fair and clean election, whether our political leaders could show their statesmanship by accepting the unpredictable election outcome, and whether the people could exercise the right with a sense of responsibility and accountability.  
Up to this point, you now may say I am a dreamer. If election could bring the voice of Hong Kong people to our political system, we properly do not see the wreak havoc in recent months. One of the five demands chanted by protesters is genuine universal suffrage for the Chief Executive and all members of our Legislative Council. Universal suffrage has been a core political agenda of our city. As an international financial centre, we cannot elect our top political leader. Our law-making process is largely subject to a group of lawmakers returned by limited franchise, not mentioning our District Councils which are only consultative bodies.
Persistent disappointment to our election system has radicalized the street politics of Hong Kong in post-handover years. In 2003, the mass rally of 500,000 people put a halt to the legislation of national security laws. This successful demonstration of the people power has set a template of peaceful, rational and non-violent social mobilization for the rallies and protests in the following decade. In 2014, the people of our city attempted to transform peaceful demonstration to civil disobedience. Thousands of people occupied the central business districts of our city in the hope of pressing for an open, fair and transparent election for the head of Hong Kong and our Legislative Council. Street fights keep appearing in our news when protesters clash with mainland visitors arising from the issues of parallel-trading and congested living environment.
On the 1st July this year, protesters smashed into the legislative chamber of our city. After their retreat, there was an iconic news photo showing a pillar was painted with a sentence: it is you teaching me that peaceful demonstration is useless. Since the beginning of the anti-extradition laws movement this summer, we witness escalating violence from the police, and then the protesters.
Spiralling street violence and political hatred now are part of our lives. Hongkongers now put politics before family, friendship, working relationship, and business. We are prudent to talk about politics before strangers. Our words in social media platform could result in interpersonal and business boycott. Hate speech and name-calling are common in our dialogue. The government and the police are no longer politically neutral law enforcers in the eye of many people. Universities become battlefields. Subway become warzone. No one could say we are still living in the Hong Kong which we understand.
So, why election still matters? Can my vote change anything?
When we check out international news, even bullets and death threats cannot stop people to vote. Election, after all, is still a window of opportunity for people to voice out political choices, to demonstrate political determination, and to tell the government that we are not giving up any chance to counter-balance her power. A high voting rate in times of social crisis could tell the world that Hong Kong people are willing to resort conflicts by election and political system, despite the street fights we see. A successful election in this difficult period can ensure the world that we, the Hongkongers, are still committing to an internationally recognized way to resolve political deadlock. If we could do our part properly, the government should also do her part, and seriously react to the political implication of the election results.
This election is also a de facto referendum. It provides the most representative political signal that Hong Kong people want to tell the world after the ‘summer of fire’ this year. The whole world has been watching us for months. Many are speculating what we are thinking about this unprecedented social movement. Although District Councils may not have an important role in our political system and the current social crisis, the collective political message indicated by this election for sure will be part of the Hong Kong history.   

All good wishes,
Chi Kit

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