On 22 April, the Government published the Consultation Report and Proposals on the Method for Selecting the Chief Executive by Universal Suffrage, and at the same time introduced a couple of slogans to drum up support: ‘2017, Make it Happen!’, and 'You can vote to elect the Chief Executive. There's no reason to take it away!’. Unfortunately, the inelegant and ungrammatical second slogan runs the risk of losing the Government support rather than gaining it.
The expression 'vote to elect' can be considered first. It is true that to vote for someone is not the same as to elect someone, but generally the verb 'to vote' in an election carries the implication that the purpose of voting is to elect someone. So ‘You can vote to elect the Chief Executive’ comes close to being tautological here (along the lines of ‘necessary requirement’ or ‘added bonus’). More normal usage would be ‘You can vote for the Chief Executive'.
While the first sentence is inelegant, the second sentence is just wrong. In English, the pronoun ‘it’ has to replace a specific referent that has been previously mentioned. But what is the referent for the word ‘it’ here? Does ‘it’ stand for ‘you can vote to elect the Chief Executive’? Obviously not. Logically ‘it’ here refers to the power to vote for the Chief Executive; so 'it' seems to be attempting to capture part of the sense of the modal verb ‘can’ in the preceding sentence. Unfortunately, this is not grammatically possible in English. The sense of 'can' has to be spelt out fully in the form of a noun; one possibility here would be 'There’s no reason to take your power away!’.
Finally, in English the expression 'there's no reason to…' is normally used to refer to an action being performed by the addressee (so 'there's no reason to give up' is equivalent to 'there's no reason for you/us to give up'). But the addressee of this message is not the one performing the action of 'taking it away' -- the sentence clearly does not mean 'there's no reason for you to take it away'. Who then is planning to take away the power to vote for the Chief Executive, and why? The slogan offers no clues, and leaves readers uneasy and uncertain about what exactly is going on.
About this blog
This blog arises from keeping an eye on English in Hong Kong. I often use signs, notices and advertisements that I see as starting points to write about English issues that commonly challenge Hong Kong writers.