New Hong Kong migrants to Britain are voting in their first London mayoral election and local polls, where differences are apparent between their old and new homes in the civic participation available to the public.
The United Kingdom on Thursday started a series of elections for London mayor, the London Assembly and other local polls across England and Wales. Twenty people are running for the mayoral post, including incumbent Sadiq Khan, and some of them have a “Hong Kong angle” in their platforms.
Simon Cheng, the founder of diaspora group Hongkongers in Britain, said he was a bit nervous casting his vote for the first time as a resident in his new home. Hongkongers with British National (Overseas) status are allowed to vote if they have registered in advance.
“For me, this is quite new and fresh. There is a much greater degree of democracy here in the United Kingdom,” Cheng said, adding that Hong Kong had elections only for directly elected councilor seats. Being a voter was significant to him. “To have a vote means I am considered an equal member of society, and being able to exercise my citizenship right gives me great satisfaction.”
Compared to Hong Kong, voting in the U.K. seemed to be a lot more entrenched in society, Cheng said, and after experiencing the highly regulated civic participation in his old home, he also took his responsibility — and freedoms — a lot more seriously.
Another first-time voter is Katie, a Hongkonger who had been living in the U.K. for a year. Katie said the differences in electoral systems were obvious, and lamented how she felt like she was living in a parallel universe, as people in the U.K. would look at the policy platforms of candidates.
“Policies can be vague or radical, but you’ve got a choice,” she said. “But elsewhere, candidates are getting arrested for participating in an election. I feel like I’m living in a parallel universe.
“In Hong Kong we would look at a party or an individual’s political leanings, whether they are pro-democratic or pro-establishment, when making decisions. But here in the U.K., I’ve been looking more at their stances on local and social issues.”
Katie said many Hongkongers who recently arrived in the country were paying special attention to candidates’ attitudes and positions on Hong Kong-related issues, which was understandable.
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