Yau Wai-ching: I might be stripped of my post any day

October 19, 2016 16:26
Yau Wai-ching's many male fans call her "Legco belle" or "goddess of localism", names she is trying to get used to.  Photo: HKEJ

Twenty-five-year-old Yau Wai-ching, Hong Kong’s youngest female legislator, promises not to succumb to pressure even though she is beset with controversies.

At her swearing-in last week, she triggered a firestorm by pronouncing China "Shina", a derogatory term used by the Japanese during the early 20th century, and republic as "refuc**ng".

Earlier, Yau raised eyebrows with her use of colorful language at a university forum after her Legco election.

“If we’d like to bang, we can’t find a room,” she complained about the lack of privacy in Hong Kong homes.

She later said she only wanted to voice young people’s frustrations. The lack of decent living space and privacy are driving many of them crazy, she said.

“I won’t bow to all criticism but I will have to learn to live with it now that I’m a public figure,” Yau told the Hong Kong Economic Journal.

Obedient daughter

Yau was born to a very Hong Kong family.

Her parents are both civil servants but they are politically neutral.

As long as they can go on with their peaceful life, they don’t care who is calling the shots in government.

Yau said her parents don’t side with the government on every issue but they are the kind of people who fear Hong Kong might become chaotic if there are too many rebellious young people or anti-establishment activists.

Like most people her age, Yau enjoys weekends and holidays, sleeping through lunchtime and watching TV dramas.

She has a degree in Chinese literature from Lingnan University. She reads novels and occasionally writes.

But a career in politics?

"I never thought of it due to my upbringing. But that all changed in the 2014 Umbrella Movement. You could call it coincidence.”

Yau’s political awakening came fast.

She joined Youngspiration, a localist group founded in 2015, as a volunteer. It took her just 18 months to complete her journey to the legislature.

Goddess of localism

Hongkongers first heard of her in the 2015 District Council elections when the then little-known Yau threw down the gauntlet to veteran legislator and pro-Beijing heavyweight Priscilla Leung in Whampoa East.

Her bouncy, sweet charisma and velvety voice soon conquered many young voters there already tired of a district council stacked with government stooges.

She spent weeks canvassing votes at street stations. The result was a glorious defeat -- she got 2,345 votes in her maiden run, just 304 fewer than her rival.

That result was far better than Yau had expected but Priscilla Leung’s reelection was still a big disappointment to many of her supporters.

Others hail her as a rare combination of beauty, guts and persuasive oratory.

That “glorious defeat” lent Yau confidence to contend in September’s Legco election in Kowloon West constituency.

Although she refused to sign an anti-secession pledge required by the government, she was not disqualified unlike some other localist candidates.

Yau got 20,643 votes, grabbing the very last seat in that constituency and kicking mad dog Wong Yuk-man out of the chamber.

Her localist platform includes exploring offshore natural gas fields in the South China Sea when Hong Kong "becomes independent one day".

It will then be entitled to its own exclusive economic zone, she said.

“Some might think that all these have come too easy and quick for me. Two years ago, I was a nobody, but I’ve made my own sacrifices.

“My boyfriend and I broke up before the Legco election. We couldn’t see eye to eye on politics… But that is not all bad. I won’t have too much extra time to maintain a relationship in the next four years.”

She said she is only beginning to get used to being called “BB”, “goddess”, “Legco belle” etc., names given by her male fans.

She also finds people curious about how she will spend her pay of more than HK$93,000 per month, apparently more than they care about her platform.

“Fine, here’s how I will spend the money: 15 percent goes to my party Youngspiration and the bulk will fund district activities like opening offices and, of course, I will give some to my family.

“Average millennial diversions like traveling, going to movies or shopping never attract me. If I need to buy a skirt, I just go to a store, pick one and pay. Building my own wardrobe is never my cup of tea so no budget for that.”

Anything but peaceful

Yau is yet to find a suitable assistant, and one reason may be the not-for-the-faint-hearted caveat in the recruitment ad: "you need to prepare for detention or you may even end up in jail if you want to work for me".

“I may be dragged down, framed or even stripped of my post any day," she said.

On Oct. 18, the Department of Justice, representing the chief executive, filed a judicial review in the High Court seeking an interim injunction against a decision by Legco President Andrew Leung to allow Yau and Sixtus Baggio Leung to retake their oaths.

After an emergency hearing late that night, the High Court decided against the injunction but accepted the judicial review application which is scheduled to be heard on Nov. 3.

Yau and Sixtus Leung were not able to retake their oaths on Wednesday morning amid a chaotic walkout by pro-establishment lawmakers that led to an insufficient quorum.

Brian Shu, Horry Lam and Stefan Wong of the Hong Kong Economic Journal contributed to this story.

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Yau Wai-ching was little known just two years ago. Now the 25-year-old is a standard-bearer of Hong Kong's nascent localist movement. Photo: HKEJ
Yau Wai-ching canvasses votes at a street station before the Legco elections. The banner behind her reads "self determination, reclaim Legco". Photo: HKEJ
Yau Wai-ching's and her Youngspiration comrade-in-arms Sixtus Baggio Leung's oath-taking triggered an uproar from the pro-Beijing camp. Photo: Reuters
Yau Wai-ching and (right) and Sixtus Baggio Leung tell reporters after an emergency High Court hearing that they are happy with the court's rejection of an injunction. Photo: HKEJ

EJ Insight writer