Political apathy

For someone who is very unpolitical, even I have felt the impact of AMS elections: one person made a speech in a class, I heard a couple of introductory speeches while eating lunch in the SUB, and most tellingly, I’ve received a few invitations to join Facebook groups voting for their favourite representatives.

Turning them all down made me question, perhaps for the first time, why I am so politically apathetic in not only the AMS, but HK and Canadian politics as well.

Actually, I can answer the one about Canada. I know nothing about Canadian politics beyond who the current Prime Minister is, and that takes me five to ten seconds to recall at any given time. I can name the President and Premier of China much faster. Like Canadian politics, I think it would be a step worse for me to vote randomly for people I don’t know than to just not know and to abstain from AMS elections altogether. Not that where I am is particularly sensible either. I should really know how things work.

Wherefore this political apathy? None of my family is political. None of my friends at home were. In fact, no one I knew in HK was actually political. Is this because we are rooted in being an ex-British colony when we didn’t have the vote? (One of those niceties that no one ever mentions when people criticise China for not allowing democracy in HK: Britain didn’t either.

Is it because we don’t have universal suffrage right now? The current system is to vote for representatives for your district and/or profession/industry, and these representatives will vote for the Chief Executive (who governs the city, and who reportedly has a higher salary than the US President, which is just ludicrous). I’m not sure how voting for legislators (LEGCO) works but it’s similar I think. People have been going on marches for “democracy” (i.e. universal suffrage) for a few years now. Of course, another one of those things which media (at least the main English broadsheet I read) stopped reporting on after the fashion for calling for universal suffrage came into being is the fact that when surveyed, the vast majority of the population doesn’t actually know how the HK political system works. It all makes me skeptical of whether people know what they are really demanding for when they go on democracy marches. In fact, people seem to be doing protests all the time now and they’re more often than not insignificantly small.

People went on another march when I was in HK over the break. Why? Because the Chinese government — and get this — has agreed to allow universal suffrage for the 2017 Chief Executive elections. But no, some people (politicians who want to have a pro-democratic reputation, perhaps) want to have universal suffrage for the 2012 Legco elections, so they had a little protest. Even though most people still don’t know how the system works. I dunno, but I always thought that democracy only works nicely when those who are voting are educated and well-informed about the system…

Still, I was delighted and surprised when I heard the news. I don’t think I expected the mainland government to be so supportive of universal suffrage so soon, just ten years after the original handover. It also efficiently squelches the previous raging (mostly foreign, I noticed) criticism that China would never allow universal suffrage/democracy. Teehee. I seem to have this streak of disliking other countries telling mine what to do. (Hey, I just discovered where I hold allegiance to!) But then again, how much would America like it if China started saying how they’re wrong and this this this is how things should be done?

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