After boycotting big business, Pong targets Legco seat
Consumer crusader Pong Yat-ming has already gone beyond his goal of boycotting the city's property giants for a year. And now the activist is taking his one-man battle against tycoon power a step further, by running for a Legislative Council seat.
The 39-year-old teacher and event organiser started snubbing businesses owned by billionaires and conglomerates in October 2010, swapping fast food for cha chaan teng suppers and shopping trips to ParknShop and Wellcome for visits to family-owned local stores, while using his bicycle to get around.
He's still managing to meet his goal 90 per cent of the time, and says: 'Apart from electricity bills and occasional cross-harbour trips on the MTR, I usually get what I need from small shops.'
Pong's mission has since taken in activities to raise awareness, stalls at public exhibitions and even a book, on sale at this week's Book Fair. But his next ambition is to reach the corridors of power.
'I want to talk to the public and gather their views on social issues. If I was elected, my office as a legislator would be a coffee shop where people can sit down and chat,' he said.
He plans to run as an independent candidate in the New Territories East, where he will face the likes of Liberal Party honorary chairman James Tien Pei-chun and 'Long Hair' Leung Kwok-hung, the firebrand lawmaker from the League of Social Democrats.
While far from confident of winning, he wants to test the waters and use the campaign to raise awareness of his cause. His sense of purpose steadily grew as more people joined his boycott of the tycoons in the six months after he started.
'Two groups of people echo my thoughts. Some care about society but dislike protests on the street or on the internet. Others are little shops and hawkers intimated by the hegemony [of tycoons].'
He has since taken part in other activities to raise the campaign's profile, including movie screenings at individual cinemas and guided tours to traditional shops. He set up stalls at public exhibitions, calling on people to buy handicrafts as Christmas gifts instead of conventional toys.
Increasing diversity in society and helping marginalised people are his ultimate goals, and Pong seeks to do so not only by condemning the strong but by introducing a different mentality to young people.
'On the second Sunday of every month, I go out on to the street and ask people to stop visiting chains for a day,' he said.
Twelve activists joined him on a 25-day journey from Paris to Prague in May, during which they paid their bills by performing on city streets.
And he says the issues that motivated him to campaign have worsened, with monopolies such as the MTR Corporation and CLP Power raising prices despite huge profits, while the Link REIT, which owns shops in public housing estates, has preferred chain stores over smaller operators. 'Property hegemony is now a term deeply rooted in people's minds. The situation has yet to change, but the public, already awakened, will start fighting it,' he said.