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Fresh breeze blows through politics

A narrow victory to Yau Wai-ching in the September 4 Legislative Council (LegCo) elections in the Kowloon West geographical constituency is like a fresh breeze blowing through Hong Kong politics.

The community director of Youngspiration, a party formed in the wake of the 2014 Umbrella Movement, is not the typical aspiring politician.

A young woman in her mid-20s, she fumbles with words, at times seeming lost even in the face of malicious personal attacks directed at her by opposition candidates.

Ignorance of current policies left her rambling off long lists of figures on a proposed universal retirement plan that just simply did not add up and her vague knowledge of the local topography marooned her in vain advocacy for the use of local natural gas—which Hong Kong does not possess!

But her calm manner, patient and unflustered explanations of her position on a number of issues, as well as her refusal to attack her opponents and the urgency of her demeanour carried sufficient appeal to enough people to see her past the post by the slimmest of margins.

But while she may lack a number of the attributes that we have come to expect in aspiring politicians, she refreshingly possesses some that we do not expect.

Her what-you-see-is-what you-get approach and preparedness to walk the talk clearly reflect that the electorate is not fooled by the razz-a-ma-tazz of stylised campaigning, but can be impressed by the sight of a lonely figure tramping the hustings at all hours of the day and night.

Yau crisscrossed the bus routes running into her electorate from all parts of the city handing out literature. She stood in the rain and, like Zacchaeus, climbed ladders to increase her visibility.

In a video she asked in frank disbelief how come from the Opium Wars to the Japanese occupation, from the 1967 rising to the Handover, had people never wondered about or imagined themselves determining their own destiny.

Sometimes tenacious, but always determined, she pushed for the freedom of the people with a fresh-faced honesty that ignited enough excitement, respect and empathy to carry her from the streets to the corridors of the LegCo.

“Love is to never leave and never give up; even if we die we will be buried here; this is Hong Kong people and this is Hong Kong nation,” she proclaimed in her talks.

While her beliefs may not be everyone’s cup of tea, Yau touched a few heart chords that politicians often neglect, prompting one voter to write on her FaceBook fan page, “I voted for you not because I expect you to achieve anything in the hugely unjust LegCo in the next four years; I did so because you allowed me to witness what kindness and what courage are.”

While her victory is a triumph for Yau, it is also a victory for democracy and anyone in the street who wants to break the barriers and stereotypes of politics.

It is a victory for ordinary and decent people.

Yau recalled how she clenched her fingers tightly on March 29 last year as she gazed into the media spotlight to launch her party, saying that it is a moment in her life that she will never forget, but she has now given others moments to remember as well.



                               • Hongyu Wang