Friday, November 18, 2011

Election Day

Two weeks ago on November 6, the Hong Kong District Councils election was held in Hong Kong. In all 18 districts of Hong Kong, people could vote for selecting a council member to represent their district. For what I understand is that although there seems to be a democratic process for selecting a district council, these councils actually have little power and can only advise on topics like traffic related issues, or local services offered by the government. Nevertheless the elections seem to draw quite a lot of attention around the neighbourhood.

I happened to got to know about these elections a couple of months ago, when I was going back home after work. My apartment is about 8 minutes walk from the local MTR station, which (to me) does not seem to be that far. However, as most Hong Kong people have limited time, there are several minibuses driving between the MTR station and my building so that you never have to wait more than 5 minutes to take a bus to drive you home in no time. (It saves you about 3 minutes, isn't it amazing!)

Dr. King!
When I was walking to the minibus I noticed a man standing there, giving out folders with information. Next to him there also was a big poster with his face and his name, and some Chinese text.
Dr. King (that was his name according to the poster) saw me and immediately approached me and gave me one of his folders. He explained to me that he was running for the elections and asked me to please vote for him, as he did many good things for the neighborhood. For example, he told me that he was the person that got the air-fan (that blows some air in your face when you are waiting for the minibus) replaced as the old one was broken. I smiled, went on the bus and thought by myself that I would also run for the elections after such major achievement. Hell, why not running for president?

A couple of days later I had to go to work in the morning. When I exited my apartment and walked down to the MTR, I noticed that Dr. King had himself installed at a strategic point again, and gave out more folders. When I passed him he smiled and said "good morning, please vote for me", which he also said in Cantonese to the other people passing by.

The same happened the next day, and the day after, until some day, when I walked down again, I realized that Dr. King was not alone. Suddenly, another competitor had decided to join the daily process. He installed himself a little bit more up the road so people would pass him before they passed Dr. King, and he had one flag placed behind him that has his smiling photo, his name (Chan Kai Yuen) and the election logo. Whenever somebody passed him, he put on his (very well trained) smile, waived, and said "joohhsaahn" (which translates to Good Morning).

Chan Kai Yuen
All this seemed to make Dr. King a little bit uncomfortable. Although he held himself strong and gave a similar smile, I could tell that this wasn't his best day. The next day (on my usual route) they installed themselves again. However this time Dr. King probably woke up earlier and put himself on the same spot that Chan Kai Yuen had occupied the day before. Feeling confident in himself again, he had his usual calm smile and the good morning greeting.

However, Chan Kai Yuen was not being outsmarted yet. Probably expecting such a move, he brought with him 2 extra flags and put them behind him on the fence. Even though he was stationed lower down the road, he was still drawing more attention to himself with the big shiny green flags and his more than perfect smile on the photo.

A couple of days passed by, during which Dr. King and Chan Kai Yuen changed positions, bought more flags, until I noticed that they both began to hire assistants. First I noticed that Dr. King had recruited (I assume) his son, who was handing out folders. But Chan Kai Yuen followed with a whole bunch of helpers, with flags and folders which looked so professional that Dr. King could not fall behind, and used the same strategy.

After a couple of days of equal stability, (flags, assistants, folders, smiles, good morning's) I noticed that Dr. King was not at his usual place that morning. "Perhaps he was ill?" I thought, while walking to the shopping center in which the MTR is located. Then suddenly, after going down with the escalator, Dr. King appeared and with a big smile and even bigger confidence, waived everybody his good morning again. He did it! He outsmarted Chan Kai Yuen ultimately!

This tactic lasted for a couple of days, until Chan Kai Yuen did a counter attack and also stationed himself near the elevator, but on a different level so he could wave not only to the people going down, but also to the people leaving the MTR and going up the elevator. Smart move!

During the last days before the election, they changed positions frequently, and their smiles got even bigger. Chan Kai Yuen even bought an election belt, a green with gold belt hanging around his neck (similar to the one that Miss World has). More flags, more assistants, more folders, and bigger smiles.

The final day before the election I was working at home. Suddenly I heard a loud noise outside which sounded like a couple of African drums. *BANG* *BANG* *BANG*, repeatedly for minutes. I decided to ignore it until I got so annoyed that I looked out of the window. What I saw was the final trick of Chan Kai Yuen; he really did it well today. All his assistants were marching in the street, following a big drum at the start of the parade. They were having all the big flags and were waving to the (astonished) people on the street. Then finally I saw the master himself, dressed up and waving like a real winner. I thought to myself that this must be the final blow to his competitor. How is Dr. King ever going to beat this?? Impossible. The game is over, there is no way that this show could be matched.

And I was right. When I read the news the day after the election, I saw that Chan Kai has won the elections and now is the Elected member of the Eastern District Council Constituency of Kornhill. Even though I feel sorry for Dr. King, I think that Chan Kai Yuen deserves the honour.

I almost felt sad that the elections were over. I'd miss the generous smile of Dr. King and the smart moves of Chan Kai Yuen, now that they will not be there anymore in the morning. But how surprised I was that next day, when I came down the elevator, Chan Kai Yuen was back! Smiling more than ever, he was thanking the people for all their support.

And even though, for an outsider such as me looking at the spectacle that happened last weeks, I do appreciate this last action. It shows a true sign of respect!

Friday, November 4, 2011

Published interview with BlogExpat site

I recently have been interviewed by the BlogExpat site and today they have posted the article which references my "Being Dutch in Asia" Blog. You can read it at the link below. (if you find it interesting)

BlogExpat Interview: From The Netherlands to Hong Kong