Our Chief Executive seems to be trying to confuse us. Earlier last week she gave an exclusive interview to China’s Global Times.

Why would a busy official like Mrs Lam waste her time on a publication which few people in Hong Kong read? She’s a woman of the people, folks. The Global Times is a sort of National Enquirer without the UFO stories. I’m sure she reads it every day.

Chief Executive Carrie Lam meeting the press on December 7, 2021. File Photo: Candice Chau/HKFP.

The pearl extracted from this unpromising oyster by local reporters went like this: “There is a saying that when the government is doing well and its credibility is high, the voter turnout will decrease because the people do not have a strong demand to choose different lawmakers to supervise the government. Therefore, I think the turnout rate does not mean anything.”

Really? Day after day we have been bombarded with printed exhortations to “Vote for Hong Kong.” Senior officials, including Ms Lam, begged us to do our duty. National security enthusiasts warned that urging people not to vote was a recently created criminal offence.

Where did this unlikely “saying” come from? It is apparently beyond the reach of Google. Can it be that Ms Lam made it up? Cynics will suspect that our leaders expect the turnout to plummet and are now trying to get their excuses in first.

But the implications of the new view are rather depressing. Are we now to suppose that the law against urging people not to vote is superfluous? If refraining from voting is a way to express approval of the job the government is doing, why should people be prosecuted for urging their fellow citizens to offer their support in this way?

Government advertisement encouraging citizens to vote, File Photo: Kelly Ho/HKFP.

We should have some specialised parties to make the most of this opportunity to put your opinion painlessly. We could have Lam Loving Layabouts, Couch Potatoes for Communism, Sun-bathing Supporters of the Status Quo. Non-voters could gather in some convenient pub and have a real political party.

Mind you, Ms Lam does not seem to have thought out the implications of the “saying” very carefully. If you vote for a government-approved candidate (the only kind on offer these days) you will be supporting the government. If you don’t vote you will be congratulating the government on doing well and having high credibility.

Under this scenario, voters would have only one way to express disapproval of the government, and that would be to spoil the ballot paper. I don’t suppose this is quite what Ms Lam was hoping to encourage, but that is the clear implication. No doubt the ICAC will be looking into it.


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Tim Hamlett

Tim Hamlett came to Hong Kong in 1980 to work for the Hong Kong Standard and has contributed to, or worked for, most of Hong Kong's English-language media outlets, notably as the editor of the Standard's award-winning investigative team, as a columnist in the SCMP and as a presenter of RTHK's Mediawatch. In 1988 he became a full-time journalism teacher. Since officially retiring nine years ago, he has concentrated on music, dance, blogging and a very time-consuming dog.