“We citizens are very enthusiastic about voting.”
Retiree Lee Bing-ho, who lives in Shenzhen, said he felt that making the trip was important. He also slammed many youngsters as “naive” for their political opinions.
“We elderly know what is good for our family, that’s why we are supporting our government,” the 66-year-old said.
The Post observed that many of the voters making the journey promptly headed home after casting their ballots.
Sunday’s district council poll is the first since the government earlier this year overhauled the municipal bodies to align with Beijing’s “patriots-only” policy direction.
As part of efforts to promote the election, city authorities set up two polling stations in Sheung Shui, with 12,976 preregistered to vote at the sites, just one-third of the available quota.
During the Covid-19 pandemic in 2021, the government ran a closed-loop system for polling stations at three border control points to ensure mainland-based voters could take part in the Legislative Council election that year.
Travelling voter Tom Hung, 37, on Sunday said the atmosphere for this election felt much stronger than the Legco poll two years ago.
“I came to vote today because I saw so many advertisements on television, and I happened to have time,” the cross-border logistics worker said.
Leo Lam, a 23-year-old university student based in Guangzhou, was one of the few young voters to make the journey back to Hong Kong for the election.
“I voted for the independent candidates,” he said. “I admire their courage, hence I made a special trip from Guangzhou to support them.”
Official figures showed that more than 9,200 people had voted at the two stations in Sheung Shui by the afternoon.
The government promotion drive also extended to Hong Kong’s community centres for the elderly, with each facility offered a HK$20,000 (US$2,560) subsidy to help their residents cast their ballots.
According to the Social Welfare Department, almost 90 per cent of the 215 centres had applied for the one-off subsidy as of Saturday.
Wilson T.S. Wang District Elderly Community Centre, which falls under the Tung Wah Group of Hospitals, was among those that had applied for the handout.
On Sunday morning, the centre provided a coach for about 20 residents aged 70 and above to three polling stations in Sha Tin.
The oldest member of the group, a 96-year-old woman surnamed Au Yeung, said she had woken up at 6am for the trip and had studied fliers delivered to her place to learn more about the candidates in the Sha Tin South constituency.
“It is the civic responsibility of every Hong Kong resident to vote,” she said. “I voted for the one who really cares about the community.”
The community centre said it would help about 40 people to cast their votes, about 2.5 per cent of its 1,600 residents, and had arranged two coaches for the day.
The Lok Sin Tong Benevolent Society, Kowloon, an NGO that runs two centres, said it had assisted 123 residents travelling to polling stations. The figure represented about 10 per cent of its total service users.
Lawmaker Tik Chi-yuen, who represents the social welfare constituency, earlier voiced concerns over the subsidy policy as some centres had felt pressured to get involved in the election.
But Secretary for Labour and Welfare Chris Sun Yuk-han on Sunday stressed that the government had provided clear guidelines to all centres.
“All elderly centres should stay neutral,” he said. “The only thing they should do is to help elderly voters and they must not affect seniors’ voting preferences.”
The minister said he believed all centres would follow the guidelines, noting that any centre operators linked to political campaigns had been barred from applying for the subsidy.
Electoral Affairs Commission chairman Mr Justice David Luk Kai-hong conceded the watchdog’s ability to monitor activities throughout the day was limited, but vowed to follow up on any complaints.